MISSION — AJ Gonzaque has spent the last three years making a name for himself as a playmaker on the football field for the Mission Veterans Patriots.
But during the offseason like many other skill position players, Gonzaque goes from 11-on-11 to 7-on-7, which features high-octane offenses centered around the passing game.
While playing on his school’s team, Gonzaque also earned a spot on the Lone Star Dream Team, a traveling squad sponsored by Adidas, which is comprised of players from across South Texas.
Gonzaque is one of four Rio Grande Valley players on the team, along with Sharyland Pioneer quarterback Eddie Lee Marburger, Sharyland Pioneer defensive back Marco Oviedo, and McAllen Rowe tight end Gus Cruz. The team also features players from Corpus Christi Veterans Memorial, San Antonio Brandeis and San Antonio Brennan.
In February, Gonzaque and the Lone Star Dream Team traveled to Dallas to compete in the Pylon 7-on-7 Tournament, one of the most prominent in the state. Winning a Pylon 7-on-7 Tournament results in an automatic bid to nationals.
Heading into the Dallas Pylon 7-on-7, Lone Star Dream Team was ranked 24th out of 28 teams from across the nation. When it was over, however, the Lone Star Dream Team finished as tournament champions.
“People down here don’t usually go up to places up state and perform that well in a really big tournament like the Pylon,” Gonzaque said. “Just being able to participate in it was a great feeling, having to go against all that competition was a wake-up call to know, ‘Hey, we can play with these kids.’ Whenever they said, ‘Oh, that’s a four- or five-star recruit,’ not a single care in the world went through my body. I’m going to play the same game, and good results ended up coming out of it.”
The results weren’t just good for Gonzaque. They were great.
The Mission Veterans junior wide receiver was named the tourney’s Most Valuable Player for his efforts — 13 touchdown receptions in five games played, which included battles against defensive backs committed to Clemson and Miami.
“Everything I do, I do with a chip on my shoulder. Whenever I represent the Valley, I want to represent it well,” Gonzaque said. “A lot of times we get looked down upon, and that’s not something that I’m happy about. Me winning that award shows that we have kids that are capable of competing at the next level. With that, I go into every tournament, whether it’s in Texas or out of state, I’m going to play hard and represent the Valley well.”
Gonzaque would normally be competing in track right now, but with the University Interscholastic League’s suspension of athletics until May 4, the junior wide receiver has been staying busy sharpening his skills with at-home workouts. One workout included strapping on a harness and pulling a truck down the road.
Gonzaque’s commitment recently paid off with his first full Division I offer from Mercer, an FCS university in Macon, Georgia, that competes in the Southern Conference.
“It’s something I’m really grateful and thankful for,” Gonzaque said of the Pylon MVP honor. “Those awards mean a lot, but that’s not where I’m stopping. I’m not satisfied with any award that I get; I want to keep striving to get more MVP awards. I want to go to college and get the Heisman (Trophy), any prestigious award that you can get, I want to get and I’m going to work for it.”