“Steal of the Draft,” and New England Patriots first round pick, Christian Gonzalez, steals show with Colombia-inspired Draft Day suit
The Texas-native born to Colombian parents and 17th pick out of the University of Oregon, opened his suit jacket to reveal vibrant colors reflecting his roots.
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As life-long dreams were being made in Kansas City, Missouri on Thursday, April 27, during the 2023 NFL Draft, one particular cornerback born to Colombian parents paid tribute to his roots with his Draft Day suit — and NFL Twitter already considers him “the steal of the draft.”
The New England Patriots — who finished seventh overall in defense in the 2022-2023 season — made a Draft Day trade, sending the No. 14 pick to the Pittsburgh Steelers, and then selecting former Oregon cornerback Christian Gonzalez with the No. 17 pick they received.
Viewed as one of the best cornerbacks in the class in the leadup to Thursday’s draft, Gonzalez played for the University of Colorado for the first two years of his collegiate career before transferring to Oregon for the 2022 campaign.
In his only 12 games last season for the Ducks, the 6'1", 197-pounder posted four interceptions, seven pass breakups and 50 tackles. Bleacher Report's NFL Scouting Department ranked the Texas-born cornerback as the third-best in his position in the 2023 class behind Devon Witherspoon and Joey Porter Jr.
Originally thought to be a top 10 pick, according to ESPN, there was a <1% chance that Gonzalez was going to be available at number 17, and when he was, Patriots fans and members of the media on Twitter immediately called Gonzalez the "steal" of the draft.
After taking the stage at the Union Station in Kansas City, the highly-touted cornerback opened his suit jacket to reveal the vibrant and bright colors of red, blue and yellow inside that resembled the flag of Colombia.
In speaking with Patriots’ reporters after being selected, Gonzalez explained the wardrobe decision.
"I wore it because I'm Colombian," Gonzalez explained in his first interview with Patriots reporters. "It means the world to me.”
"To just be able to put it on for South America; they don't really play football over there. So having little kids know they can do what they want if they set their mind to it — I just want to be able to let them know they have somebody to look up."
Gonzalez said his father, Hector, was born in Colombia and moved to the U.S. to play basketball when he was 18, attending UTEP, and later joining a semi-professional league in Colombia.
Born in Carrollton, Texas, and raised in The Colony, Texas, Gonzalez attended The Colony High School, where he was rated a four-star prospect as a cornerback and wide receiver. He’d committed to Purdue University before enrolling at the University of Colorado.
Becoming a fulltime cornerback upon joining the Colorado Buffaloes football team in 2020, Gonzalez started every game as a freshman, ending the season with 25 tackles with five pass deflections and as a sophomore, had 53 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss, and five pass break ups.
Before the 2022 season, he transferred to the University of Oregon to play for the Ducks where he’d be named first-team All-Pac-12 after recording 45 tackles, 7 pass breakups, and 3 interceptions.
At the end of the season, Gonzalez decided to forgo his remaining two years of eligibility and enter the draft.
Gonzalez’ athletic and tall frame comes from his father, Hector, a former 6-foot-9 basketball player who played college ball at the University of Texas at El Paso before playing semi professionally in Colombia.
The new Patriot also has older sisters, Melissa (Texas) and Samantha (Miami), both former All-Americans in track and field in college, at the University of Texas and University of Miami respectively. Both also compete for the Colombian national track and field team.
As for the struggling Pittsburgh Steelers, it’s too soon to know if they might have made a mistake trading picks with their rivals by moving up to pick 14 after trading picks 17 and 120 to New England.
The Steelers traded picks and instead opted for Georgia offensive tackle Broderick Jones.
Despite being a consensus top-10 player in the class, the former Super Bowl champions who’ve struggled in recent seasons passed up on the talented cornerback, and according to a source, it was because of a poor pre-draft visit with head coach Mike Tomlin that discouraged the team from taking him.
According to FanNation, when Gonzalez visited the Steelers facility, Tomlin asked the junior why he transferred to Oregon after beginning his career with Colorado.
When the cornerback explained that he only did so in order to follow his position coach to his new school, the Steelers Head Coach was not pleased with the answer and said he hoped he’d instead said something regarding the opportunity to face better competition.
He was reportedly then heard telling one of the Steelers players, Minkah Fitzpatrick, that he didn't think the Oregon product had the "competitive edge.”
According to the NFL’s official scouting report on the player, he’s an explosive outside cornerback with a number of physical and athletic traits. A true athlete with blazing top-end speed, it should help him match against the top and speedy receivers such as the Miami Dolphins’ Tyreke Hill.
Gonzalez, who turns 21 on June 28, said this about playing in the league.
"It's been a dream since I was 5, 6 years old when I started playing football. It's kind of surreal. I don't think it's truly hit,” he said.
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