CLARK, NJ - Members of the Crusader Fall Athletics recently joined guest speaker Gian Paul Gonzalez for a presentation entitled “All In”.
Gonzalez, a high school teacher in Union City, New Jersey was asked to lead a chapel service for members of the New York Giants team the night before the team’s Christmas Eve 2011 game against the New York Jets. There was little hope then that the team would make it to the playoffs.
To illustrate the concept of commitment Gonzalez handed each football player a poker chip and instructing them to write their number on one side of the chip and write what they wanted to be committed to on the other side. He then shared with the team the meaning behind the poker phrase “All In”. He inspired them to be committed and put all their chips on the table.
“We are faced with decisions every day at which time we can decide to be fully committed, or all in,” says Gonzalez, a former All-American forward, who passed up a professional basketball contract to continue his work with at-risk youth. “I said to the players, ‘I want you to fully commit to being all in on something.’” Gonzalez went on to urge players to fully commit to anything they take on, whether as a father, husband, son or even, a football player.
The next day after Gian Paul’s message the Giants beat the Jets 29-14. In a post game interview, Giant’s Defensive End, Justin Tuck credited Gonzalez’s message of being “All In” as the reason the Giants won that day. The team went on to win every game, up to and including Super Bowl XLVI, where they beat the New England Patriots 21-17.
Gonzalez was a former NCAA First Team All-American forward from Montclair State University scoring nearly 1,400 points in his 3-year career. Played with the LA Clippers in their NBA Summer League in 2008 and was offered a few professional basketball contracts, yet he turned them down in order to continue his work with at-risk youth.
He continues working as a motivational speaker and strives for excellence in inner-city public schools and juvenile jails, for which he received the 2012 New Jersey Hero Award from New Jersey First Lady Mary Pat Christi.
Gonzalez’s presence in Clark was greatly appreciated by many as expressed by Clark’s high school Athletic Director Gus Kalikas. “Arthur L. Johnson High School was thrilled to have Gian Paul Gonzalez come and speak to us on the topic of All In. Gian Paul reached all of our student athletes and left them with great strategies that will not only help on the fields, courts, and mats, but also in the game of life. He was a true professional and inspires while delivering a wonderful message,” said Kalikas.