Friday, Jul 20 at 7:58 AM
San Antonio native Jimmy Gonzales dreamed big dreams as a kid growing up in Schertz, spending countless hours visualizing what it would be like to coach at a major college someday.
"I always have loved college football," Gonzales said. "It's a great game."
A 1976 Clemens High School graduate, Gonzales got his first taste of coaching as a student assistant at Texas Lutheran after completing his career as a 175-pound offensive guard for the Bulldogs in 1979. Seven years later, he was coaching in the Big 10.
"When I went to Wisconsin, I couldn't have told you if it was Iowa or Iowa State that was in the Big 10,' Gonzales said.”But I was just happy to be coaching in the Big 10."
By the time he left Wisconsin in 1989, Gonzales was well on his way to a long, successful career as a college football coach, administrator and recruiter at such prestigious schools as Notre Dame, Texas, Oklahoma and the U.S. Military Academy.
"It was more than I ever could have imagined," Gonzales said. "I never dreamed I would get the opportunities I've gotten."
Gonzales, 54, made the best of those opportunities and became the first Hispanic to serve on the staffs at most of the universities where he worked.
Eight others to be honored Saturday night
"Jimmy has set a great example for other Hispanics, regardless of what profession they're in," said Joe Cortez, president of the Hispanic Sports Foundation for Education. "He had the talent to get things done, whether he was coaching on the field or working behind the scenes.
"You don’t get those jobs at the top-tier programs if you’re not real good, but Jimmy proved he belonged there. He’s really straightforward and very impressive.”
Gonzales will be in the spotlight when he is inducted into the Hispanic Heritage Hall of Honor on Saturday night at the Omni Hotel.
The Hispanic Heritage Hall of Honor is sponsored by the Hispanic Sports Foundation for Education, a San Antonio organization that also recognizes Hispanics who have achieved success in education, business, arts and entertainment, public service and the military.
The Hall of Honor Class of 2012 also includes retired Army Maj. Gen. Alfred Valenzuela, U.S. Rep. Charles Gonzalez, former state legislator John Longoria, UTSA professor Felix Almaraz, boxing ringside physician Ruben Tenorio, neurosurgeon Arnulfo Garza-Vale and Palo Alto College professor Juan Tejeda.
Fred Jonas, a former football coach at Corpus Christi Miller High School and Texas A&I and Angelo State, also will be recognized for his efforts to get Hispanics to college during his long career.
"All of these people have had a great influence on many lives," Cortez said. "It's a powerful class."
Gonzales now works for recruiting service
Gonzales has lived in San Antonio since early in 2009, when he left Oklahoma State after serving as the Cowboys' director of football operations for four years.
Willie Crafts, a member of the Hispanic Sports Foundation for Education, had pushed for Gonzales' entry into the Hispanic Heritage Hall of Honor for several years.
"When I was working in college football, the timing was never right because we were involved in summer camps or we were getting ready to start preseason workouts," Gonzales said. "I want to thank Willie for being so persistent because he's the one who orchestrated all of this.
"I am humbled and honored to be going into the Hispanic Heritage Hall of Honor. I'm looking forward to Saturday night very much."
Gonzales works as a director of scouting for National Preps, a recruiting service used by college coaches.
"I'm really enjoying what I'm doing now because it's allowed me to maintain my relationship with coaches and stay around this crazy game," Gonzales said.
Gonzales was UT's director of football operations
A 1981 Texas Lutheran graduate, Gonzales started his coaching career that year at Kirby Middle School in the Judson ISD. A year later, he joined Jim Wacker's staff at Southwest Texas State as a graduate assistant.
When Wacker left SWT for TCU in 1983, after leading the Bobcats to their second of back-to-back NCAA Division II titles, Gonzales followed him to the Fort Worth school. Gonzales was a graduate assistant at TCU for two seasons before taking his first full-time college job at Tulsa in 1985.
Gonzales was an assistant coach for seven years at Tulsa, Wisconsin and Northwestern before taking his first administrative job at Oklahoma in 1992. He helped coordinate the Sooners' recruiting for two years before returning to coaching at Duke.
Gonzales left Duke in 1996 to join the staff at Texas as director of football operations, a job he held until Mack Brown succeeded John Mackovic in 1998. He held similar positions at the U.S. Military Academy and Notre Dame before going to Oklahoma State in 2005.
"All the places I've been and all the experiences I've had in college football have been great not only for me, but for my family as well," Gonzales said.
While Gonzales is still passionate about college football, he is realistic about his chances of ever working at a major college again.
"It's not so much that I'm done with college football, but college football is done with me," he said. "The guys doing the job that I used to do are getting younger and younger."