The Sit Down: Tony Gonzalez

Whenever I’m around this guy, I always feel like I’m in good company: A former All-Pro tight end, Tony Gonzalez is probably the most accomplished tight end in the National Football League and in my opinion, a shoo-in as a future Hall of Famer (I’ll make sure to give him some tips about how to sit for his bust when the time comes). He’s an NFL analyst for Fox Sports, so I get to work in the studio with him every Sunday during the season and it honestly couldn’t be any better. Not only is he a guy who you can really talk shop with, he’s also a devoted husband to his wife, October, and the father of four, which makes him a great friend to go to when some good life advice is needed. He’s also the author of two books, The All-Pro Diet and Catch and Connect, and if that wasn’t enough, he’s an aspiring actor who made his film debut alongside Vin Diesel in XXX: Return of Xander Cage. But the thing I think I like best about Tony is he’s a huge advocate of organizations that support kids, like the Boys and Girls Clubs, Shadow Buddies Foundation, and Scholars’ Hope Foundation. He works just as hard on camera as he does off with these kids, whether it’s helping them to reach their full potential or just putting a smile on their faces to make them feel healed, even if only for a moment. And that’s a calling I can really get on board with.

His story: “If there was any indication of [what my career would be] was that it wasn’t going to be great. I played Pop Warner football and I was the worst kid on the team. Literally. I ended up quitting the first year because I wasn’t getting any playing time. I tried out again and the second year I got a little bit better. But it wasn’t until my freshman year of high school when it finally clicked for me. One of the best players in Pop Warner was a kid named Eric (who became one of my best friends) and on the first day of pads in freshman football, Eric called me to the front of the line for a drill. I remember we hit each other like two little bulls in a ring … and we stood each other up and then fell straight down. That was the first time I realized I could do this; I felt like, ‘Wow, I can be a really good player, if I just took on the best player on the team.’ It hurt, you know, my head was ringing, but it felt good at the same time. And by my senior year, I was [getting] two or three touchdowns a game.”

His career: “It’s exactly what I always wanted. I think it’s really important to set your goals and set them high. Go for it all. That’s my mentality. I always look ahead with great enthusiasm and, usually, with confidence. I guess there are other ways to do it; some people just let things happen as they go, but I’m all about setting goals and going after the best of the best. That’s where I want to be.”

His current gig: “I love it. The most important part of being a good NFL analyst is bringing your own personality and not trying to be like anybody else—and having a good time. And that’s what we do. That’s why I love being at Fox. We really enjoy each other’s company, whether I’m on set with Michael Strahan or Michael Vick or Terry Bradshaw and Howie Long and Curt Menefee. It’s a bunch of guys who are friends hanging out and talking about football. It can’t get any better than that and we get paid to do it. It’s a hell of a job that I feel very fortunate to have.”

His work ethic: “Do easy work. I’ve learned that people talk about hard work; you’ve got to [put in] hard work. We all know that, but I think what makes that hard work easy is when you love what you do at a level 10 out of 10. Because if you can do that, then there’s no such thing as hard work. You’ll stay after practice, you’ll go early to practice, you’ll catch extra balls and get extra reps. You’ll do the research for the show. You’ll do whatever it takes to keep getting more and more comfortable, and you’ll see over time that even when you’re not working, you’re thinking about what you could be doing and how to get better. Work, like life, is never complete: it’s always expanding [because] you keep going, keep pushing it further. Life is designed that way and that’s what keeps you alive and keeps things fun. And that’s why I call it easy work. I’ve been very fortunate.”

His turning point: “After my third year with CBS, I had a sit down with my manager, my agent, and my wife; it was like a career intervention. They said, ‘You’re not being your total self on air and it shows.’ I was able to do that on the football field, but I wasn’t able to connect the dots that you can do the same thing when you’re an analyst or an actor. That was a big turning point for me because I decided I was going to stop being afraid and just be myself. It’s all about letting go. Before every show or every scene I do in acting, I tell myself I’m fearless. I’m fearless and I got this. It’s funny how life takes off when you’re on the other side of fear.”

His regimen: “After I got done playing, I stopped hitting the weights because I didn’t have to do that anymore. Now, I do infrared saunas, cold showers every morning, and intermittent fasting. I do a lot more walking and some pool exercises. I used to do visualization before games, but now I’m meditating every day. And the nutrition is always what it’s been, very paleo: a lot of vegetables, organic grass-fed meat, and just really clean sources of food. I’m looking for ways to feel good and have a clear mind.”

His success secret: “I’m a big believer that self-talk is the most important thing you can do and should do every day. Every morning, I wake up and I tell myself that I love myself and I believe in myself and I can do what I want. I’m not at the mercy of anybody else. I make the choices and I know what’s coming. It’s going from ‘I hope’ to ‘I know’ that things are gonna turn out great, and I know I can handle anything that comes at me. Call it a daily affirmation: to tell yourself how good you can be and that’s it.”

His colleague: “Michael Strahan is the best. He’s an inspiration for anybody out there, specifically athletes who’s making that transition to when you get down playing. You see what he does on camera and he’s totally at ease and having fun and is fearless and is totally himself, and what you see off-camera is that guy. And that’s always been inspiring to me; I’ve always looked up to him. I don’t want to do what he does but I want to be like him because he’s so fearless and so comfortable in his own skin. And when you have that attitude, the sky’s the limit. I feel very fortunate to sit next to him on the set.”

His style: “Whatever my wife tells me to wear. I’m a t-shirt and jeans kind of guy. California laidback with a little GQ when the time is right.”

His must-haves: “I must have chocolate cake with vanilla ice cream every once in a while, and a screening of Weird Science at least once a year. I also must have my automatic Toto toilet.”

His parenting style: “I parent my kids at a level-10 love and a level-7 of discipline because I want them to push the boundaries [of what they can do]. I want them to second guess things and ask questions. If it doesn’t make sense to you the first time, ask questions and get answers. I want them to be fearless.”

His causes: “Kids are the next generation, our future. I have four children, so I’m very big on getting their minds to the place of being curious, asking questions. When I’m working with these organizations, you realize that if you can have an impact and get them to think with an open mind and with fearlessness and great courage and help them learn how to love whatever they end up doing when they get older, then you’re changing generations. That’s the way I was raised and how I raise my own kids, and that’s why I like be a part of organizations that teach ways to make sure these kids have a great mindset when they grow up.”

His motto: “Fearless love, fearless presence, and fearless faith.”

What’s next: “Traveling to Europe with my family, and hopefully, an acting gig in a movie. I’m a very curious person so I’m always looking for ways to keep getting better, keep expanding, keep growing.”