The Indoor Football League has named Massachusetts Pirates kick returner LaQuvionte Gonzalez as the IFL Special Teams Player of the Week. Gonzalez returned three kicks for 87 yards, including a 57-yard kickoff return for a touchdown in Sunday’s 68-44 victory of the Arizona Rattlers.
The 5-10, 185 lb. a speedster from Cedar Hill, TX says he’s always thinking “touchdown” when the ball is coming his way.
“The goal is to take it back to the crib or to set up great field position for my team, but I give the glory to my teammates. They’re doing a great job of blocking for me, opening up those lanes. I’m just following behind those guys,” he said.
The Pirates trailed 14-8 in the second quarter as the Rattlers had just scored, but the lead lasted only seconds as Gonzalez took Ernesto Lacayo’s kick seven yards deep in the endzone and returned it 57 yards for the score. From that point on the Pirates never trailed.
“The ball came down to me and T.O. (Thomas Owens) picked up that first seal block. One guy came and he hit my leg and I kind of bounced off of him and the next thing you know I see Chucky (Williams) right in front of me, so I just grabbed him on his back plate and threw him into the kicker. I felt like I was in “Remember the Titans” when they were running the ball and blocking downfield for that game winning touchdown. It felt pretty good,” Gonzalez said.
Gonzalez excelled in the outdoor game, beginning his college career catching passes from Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel at Texas A&M. After two seasons he transferred to Kansas and eventually finished as an NAIA All-American at Southeastern College. He signed with the Los Angeles Rams in 2018 as an undrafted free agent. Later that year he played in five games with the San Diego Fleet in the Alliance of American Football. He also played last season in the Spring League.
Now as he is making his mark with the Pirates, Gonzalez was asked if it is more difficult running back kicks playing indoor football as opposed to the outdoor game.
“That’s a pretty good question. I’d say it’s easier because if you make one guy miss, you’re gone. Outdoors, the field is pretty big so there is time where a guy can come get you, but here, if you have pretty good speed, you’re gone,” he said.
This season Gonzalez has already set Pirates’ All-Time records with 29 kickoff returns, 630 yards, the longest return (57 yards) and two touchdowns. He was not aware of the accomplishments but admits they are nice to have.
“Oh man, that feels great. I give praise to Jawad (Pirates Co-Owner and General Manager Jawad Yatim) for signing me to this squad and giving me the opportunity to be on special teams. I give praise to all of my teammates,” said the record holder.
In addition to running back kicks, Gonzalez is the Pirates second leading receiver with 21 receptions for 224 yards and six touchdowns. Playing wideout indoors has been a learning process but he became a quick study, lining up alongside the top receiver in the IFL.
“You know I played three games two years ago with the Flying Aces (in the Champions Indoor League) and then I got a call from the Pirates, so I came up here. It was a little difficult at first. I really didn’t “get” indoor football. I actually watched T.O. (Thomas Owens) play and I learned all my stuff from him honestly, “he said. “I got all my little moves from him, but as a returner, that’s all me. That’s what I love to do,” he added.
Massachusetts is currently in fourth place with a 7-3 record and has won four straight games. When asked how far he sees the Pirates going Gonzalez said, “If we play as a team like we’ve been; stay away from personal fouls like we had against Frisco and just play as a team like we did against the Rattlers, I don’t think we can be beat.”
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