CEDAR HILL, Texas -- Cedar Hill (Texas) athlete LaQuvionte Gonzalez gets it. He knows he doesn't look like a dedicated athlete at first glance.
Rather than the ridiculous burst of speed or the elusiveness that make him a problem for defenders, many people who watch Gonzalez first notice his bad-boy image. Multiple tattoos, lines cut in his eyebrows and dyed hair, often resembling 1990s hip-hop culture.
"People would think I was a thug off the street, probably someone who's just a bad kid," said Gonzalez, who was the guest of honor at Wednesday's Under Armour All-America Game jersey presentation as part of the 2013 American Family Insurance Selection Tour.
"If I told them I was an Under Armour All-American, they'd probably be amazed."
The first time Cedar Hill coach Joey McGuire saw Gonzalez, he was considered a middle school phenom. He didn't weigh much, but he ran like he did. Gonzalez had stop-on-a-dime technique that many high school players don't. He ran with high knees, quick feet and, most importantly, intent to score on every play. Gonzalez was, in a word, impressive.
"When he was a middle school kid, he was one of those kids who were so explosive and so elusive. I knew he was going to be special," McGuire said. "Here was a seventh-grader making people miss. He wasn’t the biggest guy in the world, but he didn’t go down easily.
"He was this skinny, skinny kid who ran like he was 20 or 30 pounds heavier. He still does."
Fast forward to Wednesday, when McGuire watched the player he saw turn heads as a 13-year-old accept one of his biggest honors of his football career. Gonzalez will join a star-studded cast of athletes who will participate in the Under Armour all-star game that will take place Jan. 4 in St. Petersburg, Fla. The No. 13 prospect in the ESPN 150 is one of 10 Texans expected to compete.
Gonzalez gets comparisons to another Cedar Hill product, former Big 12 athlete Will Cole, who led Cedar Hill to a state title in 2006. Cole was a do-it-all prospect for Cedar Hill, playing multiple positions before settling at receiver at Oklahoma State, then North Texas.
Truly identifying the "athlete" title given to him, Gonzalez is one of his district's front-runners in punt return, kickoff return, rushing and receiving yards. He's also a district leader in punting.
Gonzalez is hoping playing in the Under Armour Game will give him a chance to truly show his versatility on offense and special teams.
"I'll get a chance to play with a lot of players I saw in Oregon," said Gonzalez, who competed at The Opening in July. "I think it's a blessing for me."
At his jersey ceremony, Gonzalez thanked his coach for all he has done in molding Gonzalez into the player he is today. Aside from football tutelage, Gonzalez gained stability and found trust in McGuire. Born in Temple, Texas, Gonzalez moved to Germany as a small child. He moved back to Lancaster, Texas, his third-grade year, and then moved to Cedar Hill in the sixth grade.
In a few months, he'll make the move to College Station, Texas, where he is expected to continue to bud as a member of the Texas A&M Aggies. Since he committed in March, both Gonzalez and McGuire have had lofty goals for the future.
"I want to go to A&M and be a leader," Gonzalez said. "I want to break some records, maybe go to the [National Football] League and just be a better man."
All of that starts with the Under Armour Game.
"They'll get someone who represents the Under Armour Game the right way. A&M's going to get the same person," McGuire said. "Whenever you see Quv and don't know him, you see a young man with the tattoos and the hair. The real LaQuvionte is someone who loves his teammates and loves his family. That's the kind of kid Under Armour and A&M will get."