JACKSONVILLE — In Football Championship Subdivision programs like Jacksonville State, there is a fairly steady stream of athletes who transfer from Football Bowl Subdivision schools. Some, like Ryan Perrilloux, bring big reputations with them.
One of this year’s transfers at JSU doesn’t have such a big name, but he’s a big guy with big talent.
Wide receiver Ruben Gonzalez stands 6-foot-3 and is 203 pounds. He comes to Jacksonville from the University of South Florida, where he played in 11 games as a true freshman for Skip Holtz’ squad in 2011. After redshirting in Holtz’ final year, Gonzalez appeared in 11 games in Willie Taggart’s 2-10 debut season in 2013.
The coaching change prompted Gonzalez to look for another college home. “I’ve had a different position coach every year that I was in college,” he said. “When the new coaching staff came in, I just felt like I needed to find a new program. I tried to fit in, but it just wasn’t to my advantage.”
Gonzalez was visiting South Carolina State when he got a call from new receivers coach Nick Williams at JSU. Williams had played high school football at St. Thomas Aquinas in Fort Lauderdale with one of Gonzalez’s teammates at USF.
“I asked (my teammate) what kind of guy he was and he told me he was a stand-up dude,” Gonzalez said. “I gave it a shot and ended up here. I like it.”
Jax State head coach John Grass said Gonzalez was a well thought of recruit in high school. “People are going to learn his name really quick,” he said. “He’ll be an impact player for us, I believe. He’s blended in with our guys and he’s doing really well. We’re glad to add him to our program.”
Gonzalez came to JSU in July and it has been a bit of an adjustment for a player from Tampa, population almost 350,000.
“I had been to Tuscaloosa and Montgomery before,” he said, “but never to Jacksonville. When I first got here, there was a little culture shock. I’m a city boy and I come here and there’s not really much to do and I see mountains and I’m like ‘Where am I?’ But I need something like this at this time in my life to settle me down.
“The coaching staff here is what got my attention most,” Gonzalez said. “It’s very family-oriented here. I’m half-Spanish and my family, with that culture, is always together. Everybody here just comes together very easily. The coaches, you can see they try to get on the same page as the players.”
The small-town adjustment aside, Gonzalez is finding his footing just fine on the football field.
“I was in a tempo offense at South Florida under Skip Holtz. We weren’t as fast as we are here,” he said, “but we still ran a tempo offense. It wasn’t too much of a shock. Definitely, though, once I got here I got out of breath the first few times I ran it. Not as bad anymore.”
Before transferring, Gonzalez did some film homework on the Gamecocks.
“I was looking at highlights and I thought, ‘Oh, wow, I can get used to this,’” he said. “You might be out of breath after you bomb somebody, but you line back up and go again. The motto here is ‘Quick Six’ on offense. That’s what we’re trying to get going.”
While Grass’ offense looks complex, Gonzalez narrows it down to its most basic.
“I see ball, catch ball,” he said. “I don’t have a preference for any of the quarterbacks. They put it in there and I’ve got to get it. That’s my job.”