As a freshman, Jake Gonzalez was a receiver in the Loyola football program.
After the season, the coaching staff asked him if he would be willing to switch to defense and play safety.
He agreed and earned a starting job as a sophomore. This season, the 6-foot-2, 200-pound Gonzalez was named a captain and helped the Ramblers capture the Class 8A state championship. The three-year starter finished his career as the program’s all-time leader in tackles with 355.
“The coaches said I had a legitimate chance to play right away if I moved to safety,” said Gonzalez, a three-year starter. “But it was tough because Loyola has a complicated system. It helped that the coaches simplified the game plan for me at the beginning.”
On Wednesday, Gonzalez, a Chicago resident and graduate of St. Andrew, confirmed his commitment to play football for University of Pennsylvania. In addition to leading the Ramblers with 135 tackles, he totaled two tackles for loss, two interceptions, two fumble recoveries and one forced forced fumble as a senior.
Gonzalez — the Catholic Blue’s outstanding defensive player of the year — was named to the Illinois High School Football Coaches Association’s Class 8A all-state first team.
“Jake is tall, fast, rangy and tough,” Loyola head coach John Holecek said. “He’s smart and was our go-to guy for checks. He was able to recognize things the offense was trying to do.”
Penn went 6-4 in the Ivy League.
Senior Armoni Dixon, a 6-3, 220-pound linebacker, signed Wednesday with Tulane University. A two-year starter, he was first on Loyola with 18 tackles for loss to go with seven sacks and nine quarterback hurries. An all-conference selection, he also had one forced fumble and one fumble recovery.
“He’s a gifted pass-rusher, can drop into coverage and plays aggressively,” Holecek said. “He’s not too far off from playing right away. If he develops his body and gets more explosive, he will have a great career in college.”
Tulane beat Louisiana-Lafayette 41-26 in the Autonation Cure Bowl on Saturday. The Green Wave finished 7-6 and first in the American Athletic Conference’s West division.
During Dixon and Gonzalez’ four years in the football program at Loyola, the Ramblers’ varsity team won two state titles, finished second twice and went 50-6.
“What a great way to end this chapter of my football career,” Dixon said. “I can’t wait to get the next one started.”
Photo credit: Geoff Scott