NCAA Football: Former Gilroy center receives scholarship to Eastern New Mexico University

Gilroy's Eric Vegas, left, and Cordero Gonzales have fun on the

The morning of Jan. 10 was a dream come true for Cordero Gonzales. He packed up and hit the road to start the next phase of his life — joining the football program at Eastern New Mexico University.
The journey to this point has been a bumpy one, having to overcome the naysayers that called him “undersized” and “too small” — words too often heard his junior and senior years at Gilroy High School. The former Mustangs center was shot down time after time because college recruiters and coaches didn’t believe he was big or strong enough to be successful at his position.
He can’t put into words how good it feels to have proved them all wrong.
“I just kept working harder and harder — I learned how to push myself at the junior college level,” Gonzales said. “My coaches helped me work on it and it was a lot of hard work, but it’s finally paying off. It’s going to get even harder at the next level, but I’m excited.”
Gonzales spent the past three seasons at Foothill Junior College in Los Altos conditioning himself for the next level. On Dec. 20 all his hard work paid off when he officially committed to play for Eastern New Mexico University. The Greyhounds finished the season 7-3, riding a six-game winning streak to end the season.
Gonzales’ time at Foothill brought about changes in himself both physically and mentally. He was just 255 lbs. the year he gray-shirted and 285 lbs. when he left. But more importantly, Gonzales’ Foothill O-line coach Josh Taufalele said, is the mental toughness he gained there.
“He was an overachiever — the kid worked out six to seven days a week, sometimes twice a day,” Taufalele said. “He never really took any time off. I think that shows in his attention to detail in the classroom as far as his GPA — he left here with a ridiculously high GPA. When the name is said to me those are the things that are attached to it.”
Gonzales said that Taufalele taught him two important lessons that he will carry onto the next level: Get mean and stay focused. The junior center had to develop a mean streak going up against players of All-American caliber. But, more importantly, he learned not to dwell on his mistakes.
“You can’t let one play bundle into three plays,” Gonzales said. “That’s a real big thing because my freshman year if I had one bad play I’d let it start going to my head. I wouldn’t finish off the game that strong, but this year it was a lot different.”
Signing with ENMU gave Gonzales a sense of relief, as the process for a mid-year transfer moves quickly and he feared he would be without a school and team this year.
“Once I signed, it was so nice to know I was going to have a home,” he said. “Ever since the season ended I’ve been everywhere trying to figure it all out — it’s been real hard.”
Gonzales’ love for football blossomed during his time at Gilroy High. Before he even entered the halls as a student there he had already made an impact. His older brother was already playing for the Mustangs while Gonzales was still in junior high. Even then he wasted no time introducing himself and shaking hand with the coaches he would no doubt play for — one of them being offensive line coach Steven Lo.
Lo became one of Gonzales’ biggest influences during his time at Gilroy High and still draws comparisons to him. They’re both “undersized”, they’re both O-lineman and they’re both overachievers.
“Undersized guys, we all stick together,” Lo said with a laugh. “He deserves everything he gets. He’s one of the hardest working kids and nothing has been given to him. He’s not a natural 6-foot-8, 360 lb. lineman — he’s not one of those kids. He’s had to work for everything he’s got and that’s one of the things that stands out when I think of him.”
Gonzales’ performance at GHS earned him a spot in the Charlie Wedemeyer All-Star Football game as a senior before attending at Foothill.
As Gonzales left home to head towards New Mexico, his father Raymond — who played football at the high school and JC level — said the moment was bittersweet. He said he couldn’t be more proud of his son for working as hard as he has to achieve his dream, but the empty house will take some getting used to.
“Both of my boys are out of the house, both of my boys are in college so it’s a sad day,” Raymond said. “It’s a good day, they’re both going in the right direction. I wouldn’t say he’s following in my footsteps, I think he’s beyond them.”
Cordero has big goals for his time at ENMU. He wants to establish himself as one of the top linemen and earn a starting spot. He also wants to be a team captain and work to get All-Conference. Taufalele has no doubt he’ll achieve all that and more.
“Whatever he needs to do, I think it’s already a part of him,” the O-line coach said. “He’s an overachiever, a student of the game, he’s a student-athlete and you’ll probably be writing another paper about him in another two years.”