Jake Gonzalez is a rare high school athlete. Not only does the junior play football and hockey at Loyola, Gonzalez is a two-year varsity starter at safety and a two-year veteran of Loyola Gold, the top hockey team at the school. In the fall, he helped the football team to their second consecutive runner-up finish in Class 8A. He led the Ramblers with 56 solo tackles to go with eight tackles for loss, two sacks and two interceptions. A Division I recruit, the 6-foot-2, 195-pound Gonzalez has offers from Air Force, Army, Eastern Kentucky, Illinois State, Northern Iowa, North Dakota State and South Dakota State. On the ice, he skates on one of Gold’s most productive lines. The Ramblers play Glenbrook North on Monday in the semifinals of the Amateur Hockey Association Illinois state tournament at The Edge in Bensenville. A graduate of St. Andrew grammar school in Chicago, Gonzalez lives in Wilmette.
MAROON & GOLD: You don’t often an athlete who plays both football and hockey for his high school. When did you get started in hockey?
JAKE GONZALEZ: I’ve been playing since I was about 6 years old. My older brother Mike Gonzalez (Class of 2016) played, and I got into it because of him. He played on Gold for two seasons. I thought about trying out for the team my freshman year to play with him, but I decided to play club hockey instead.
M&G: Gold, which has been the best team in the state all season, needs two wins to capture its first state championship since 1996. You’ve experienced a lot of success in your time at Loyola, but you are looking for your first state title. Is that on your mind going into Monday’s semifinal game against Glenbrook North.
JG: I really want to win one. Losing it twice in football hurt a ton. To go all that way and come short two years in a row is tough, but I am very proud of what we’ve accomplished. I’m motivated knowing I don’t want to lose out on another chance. But we have to take care of Glenbrook North first. I won’t be looking ahead.
M&G: What’s been the highlight of the hockey season so far?
JG: Winning the Scholastic Hockey League championship. That was the first time we’ve done it, and we beat New Trier to win it. It was great because alumni have been cheering us on all season. The title was for them, too.
M&G: You started at safety as a sophomore and junior for what I consider the best football program in the state. Even more remarkable, you never had played the position before your sophomore year. How did you arrive in the secondary?
JG: In grade school, I was a wide receiver and linebacker. I only played receiver freshman year at Loyola, but I was told I wouldn’t play receiver on varsity as a sophomore. Of course I wanted to play, so I changed my position.
M&G: Was it a tough transition?
JG: It was. I had to learn so much. The biggest thing was making sure I was in the right place. The hardest part was mental.
M&G: Your recruiting has picked up this school year. Have you enjoyed the process?
JG: It’s been exciting. I knew I wanted to play a sport in college my freshman year at Loyola, but I didn’t know if it would be hockey or football. I look forward to visiting more colleges and talking more coaches in the spring and summer.
M&G: You have offers from Air Force and Army. Although they are Football Bowl Subdivision teams, military service academies are completely different from the rest of the programs in the country. Is that a route you would take?
JG: I haven’t thought too much about it. I want to visit the campuses to see what they are all about. I do believe they offer great opportunities, on and off the field. I’m keeping an open mind about everything right now.