Kansas receiver LaQuvionte Gonzalez understands how crazy it sounds: checking the weather report when he sees clouds, hopping in his car when he knows severe storms are on the way.
“I don’t really know what it is,” Gonzalez said. “It’s just what I do.”
Though fearless when going over the middle on crossing routes, Gonzalez admits he’s scared by thunder and lightning.
When they come, he goes to the place he feels most safe. The last two years, that’s been Kansas coach David Beaty’s house, where he often plays Madden video games in the basement until the storm passes.
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“He’s just like a father figure to me,” Gonzalez said. “He’s just always been there for me when I needed it.”
Gonzalez, a Texas A&M transfer, finally will get the chance next month to be there for his coach on Saturdays, as he will be eligible as a junior after sitting out last season.
Kansas certainly could use more outside production. The Jayhawks have been last in the Big 12 in scoring average six straight seasons, and they also haven’t had a 600-yard receiver in that time span.
“I feel like last year they didn’t have that really explosive guy that could make a big play,” Gonzalez said. “We had some guys that made big plays, but not that go-to guy. I feel like I can be that.”
If he succeeds, it likely will be with help from Beaty on and off the field. While standing at the podium during KU football media days on Saturday morning, Beaty twice referred to Gonzalez as being like his son.
The two spend time together every day, and Gonzalez texts his coach often. The first message is always the same, according to Beaty: “Aye coach,” with the first word serving as an informal way to say “hey.”
“He’s just a great kid. I love him to death,” Beaty said. “I love his playful spirit.”
Beaty also appreciates his enthusiasm. The two ate lunch together on Thursday, with Beaty telling Gonzalez to preserve his energy for the team’s first practice that night.
The receiver couldn’t help himself. He was so amped up during drills that he became fatigued about halfway through the workout.
“Man, that guy loves to practice,” Beaty said. “He is like a kid getting out of the car at an amusement park when he gets there.”
Beaty admits he wants to be cautious with Gonzalez. While serving as offensive coordinator at Rice in 2010, the coach was in a similar situation with Sam McGuffie, a running back who transferred in from Michigan. Beaty believes McGuffie received too many touches, which ultimately hurt his production.
The coach has vowed to not make the same mistake this season.
“We can’t put too much on Quiv. He’s not the answer to all the ills that we have,” Beaty said. “He is just a piece of it.”
Kansas still will be creative with how it gets Gonzalez the ball. Spring practices included the 5-foot-10 receiver taking end-arounds and reverses, and Beaty also plans on utilizing him in the return game.
“He’s got some juice back there,” Beaty said.
Gonzalez had his most productive season as a freshman in 2013 while taking passes from Johnny Manziel, posting 21 receptions for 240 yards.
Trust played a part in his transfer to Kansas, as Beaty was his receivers coach at Texas A&M and also good friends with his high school coach Joey McGuire.
Gonzalez says the toughest part of sitting out last season was not being able to help his teammates on gamedays. It’s the same reason he’s “hyped” for the season opener against Rhode Island on Sept. 3.
“I know those guys look at me to be a playmaker,” Gonzalez said, “and that’s what I’m going to do.”