It’s been a long road from Mexico for Colorado Buffs’ Diego Gonzalez

It’s been a long road for Diego Gonzalez to get to where he is now, literally and figuratively.

“I started kicking back in Monterrey, Mexico, I decided I wanted to play college football here in the United States. I heard about these kicking camps, so I came to four camps total here in the US,” explained the Buffs kicker. “I was trying for two years, but at some point I thought, ‘you know what, this is too hard, I don’t have what it takes to play in the US.’”

But just before Gonzalez hung up the cleats, he finally got the contact he had been working for.

“[Colorado special teams] Coach [Toby] Neinas sent me an email saying he saw my film and was pretty interested, but he wanted to see me in person,” he said. “He flew out to Monterrey, I did a workout for him and he was pretty happy with that. They offered me and I obviously accepted.”

The hard work had only just begun.

“I came here and I had to re-shirt my first year, my second year I had a sports hernia and I kicked off once, if you remember, in the CSU game,” told Gonzalez. “I knew it wasn’t my best kick, and I wasn’t at my best so the coaches decided to keep going with Will Oliver.”

Diego believes his “benching” so to speak was a blessing in disguise.

“I thought it was pretty good, I didn’t feel 100 percent, and Will is a great kicker,” he explained. “It helped me a lot to have time to mature, get more consistent. Now they gave me the opportunity and I’m pretty happy with that.”

Gonzalez was much maligned last year as a scholarship kicker riding the bench, concerns were running high about the kicking game all off season, many thought the kicking competition was over when Chris Graham was put on scholarship. But Diego just kept coming to the practice field everyday with his laid back attitude and contagious smile, going through his work and getting better.

Asked if winning the starting job was a confidence booster, Diego maintained his even keel attitude.

“I don’t want to be cocky but I’ve always trusted myself, so I had a good feeling about it,” he told. “I knew to win the job I had to work really hard and be really consistent because these guys are really good kickers.”

Despite the concerns throughout the fan base about the kicking game, Diego calmed the nerves by starting his career 5-for-5, and though his streak was broken when he had one blocked in the early going on Saturday, most of the fans decked out in white at Sports Authority Field were confident in his chances to make a 48 yarder at the end of regulation to win the game on Saturday.

Diego Gonzalez

Diego had easily his worst hit of the season, and his first chance at his dream fell short, very short.

“I was a little bit upset but every time I do something bad I try not to be upset.” said Gonzalez in his fading, but still noticeable accent. “I do get upset, and then I just try to forget that within the next minute or two minutes and just focus on what’s next. As coach Neinas says, ‘The next kick is the most important kick.’”

Neinas couldn’t have been more right in this situation, just minutes later, Diego got another chance, this time from a few yards closer… perfecto. Colorado wins in overtime, and Gonzalez get’s his first career game winner.

“I’ve been dreaming about that kick for years now,” he said with that ear-to-ear smile. “Having the opportunity to kick it is just one of the best feelings I’ve had in my life.”

And it’s okay if it didn’t go exactly the way he dreamed it.

“In that dream I didn’t miss any field goals, right?,” he laughed. “It’s not good, but it was kind of good at the same time, that kind of tested me to see if I could bounce back from something bad.”

Of course the kicker, who looks like he could play safety at 215 pounds, would’ve taken a win any way possible, but he admitted to hoping it would come back into his hands.

“A little bit, yeah, a little bit, I wanted to redeem myself,” he remembered. “I mean either way I would have been really, really happy, but getting that second opportunity was amazing.”

More amazing, was the fact that Gonzalez got to do it in front of his parents, who made the drive up all the way from Monterrey in time for the game.

But, Gonzalez who said he had about 20 texts, 30 Facebook requests and 30 posts on his wall when he got back to his phone, didn’t exactly get the reception he was expecting from his folks.

“It was funny because as soon as I walked into my house my parents were like, ‘Oh my god we were so nervous! We suffered a lot! Don’t do that to us again!,’” he explained, hardly containing his laughter. “I was like, ‘I was not trying to do that! It wasn’t on purpose, I was trying to make the first one!”

Diego’s parents, who will be in town for two more weeks, likely won’t have to deal with any pressure kicks this weekend against Nicholls, but most other Buffs fans wouldn’t mind the Gonzalez’ sweating out another game winner on Oct. 3, when Colorado hosts Oregon.

It’s been a long road for Diego Gonzalez to get where he is now, but now he’s living his dream.

Quotable:

On not even watching his 52-yarder go through earlier in the game:

“It was pretty funny because I hit it and I looked down because I saw it was going right down the middle, but then I looked at Colin and I was like ‘oh man! I don’t know if I have the distance!’ I looked back and I had the distance, but it was pretty funny.”

On if he even heard his teammates trying to encourage him after missing the first game winner:

“I did, I did, but at that point I just wanted to be kind of by myself and get focused on what’s coming next, because I had a feeling I was goin to get that second chance.”

On if he was more comfortable after getting the ugly miss out of the way:

“I was comfortable the first time, the second time, every time I go out there, I try to be calm, comfortable, trust myself.”

Source: bsndenver.com

Ryan Koenigsberg
In 2012, at the age of 20, Ryan became a credentialed reporter covering University of Colorado athletics ... despite wearing a wolf-tee to his interview. A native of Boulder, he is on pace to attend his 100th consecutive Colorado Football home game in 2015. Before BSNDenver, Koenigsberg covered the Buffs for both the Rivals.com and 247Sports Networks. Now 23, it seems Ryan is trying to make up for the whole wolf-tee thing by overdressing at every event. He apologizes in advance for the cringe-worthy puns.
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