Former minor league baseball player Wallace Gonzalez catching attention as new Utah Utes tight end
SALT LAKE CITY — Listed at 6-foot-5 and 240 pounds, Wallace Gonzalez is built like a baseball power hitter.
However, after three minor league seasons as an outfielder in the Houston Astros organization, the native of Pasadena, California, hadn’t made it past the Astros’ rookie league affiliate in Greeneville, Tennessee.
Now the former minor leaguer is switching to football — and catching passes and praise from Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham after two days at the Utes’ fall camp.
“It’s only been two days and he hasn’t had gear on yet, but what I’ve so far is he’s 270 pounds, light on his feet (and has) soft hands, so we’re anxious to see what he does when we put the gear on,” Whittingham said Tuesday after practice.
Gonzalez’s story is as intriguing as his potential.
The Astros selected him in the 29th round of the 2011 MLB Player Entry draft. Gonzalez, who played both baseball and football, also was a listed as a four-star recruit by ESPN and a three-star recruit by Rivals.com, at the same time.
When the Astros drafted Gonzalez, though, he decided to opt for baseball despite strong recruitment to play football in college.
“I was recruited out of high school by, I want to say, six Pac-10 teams at the time,” he said. “I figured, out of high school, I was either going to go play football if I didn’t get the money I wanted (from baseball), but I ended up going the baseball route.”
Though he enjoyed his time in the minors, it just wasn’t a right fit. But at his height and weight as listed by the university, Gonzalez is also built like a tight end — and that’s the route he’s on now after choosing to play at Utah.
The new Ute also said the biggest transition has been improving his footwork at the tight end position, as well as picking up linebackers instead of cornerbacks. However, he said the transition from baseball to football has been similar to hoping on a bicycle for the first time in a while.
“They really made me feel comfortable,” he said. “My first day here yesterday, everyone came up and introduced themselves to me. (Weslee Tonga) and all the other tight ends are really helping me kind of adapt to the offense. In high school I played receiver, so I’m not used to all this tight end footwork and stuff like that.”
Another large adjustment Gonzalez said he was making was the different mindset in baseball as opposed to football.
In baseball, failure is expected. As the old baseball saying goes, even the best fail seven out of 10 times.
That’s not the case in football.
“With baseball, it’s definitely more patience than anything,” Gonzalez said. “Here, it’s kind of like you have to be more aggressive and just go get it. I have to snap back into that and be more aggressive and go from there, but I think I’m coming into it slowly.”
Though the potential and excitement is there, Gonzalez admitted he’s still learning.
“I have a lot to improve on,” he said. “My football techniques are all really rusty, but I think my speed is a little deceiving, and I’d say that’s my biggest asset right now.
“It’s kind of weird getting hit again,” he added. “I’m getting used to it again, and it feels good to get out here."
However, the former minor leaguer turned Utah tight end is optimistic that he can make an impact with the offense this season.
“I think I can give them another threat downfield,” he said. “I mean with Dres (Anderson) and the addition of Kaelin (Clay), those are two lightning-fast guys. I think I can help stretch the field along with the other tight ends.”
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