Hutch Gonzales: ‘I will always credit my coaching career to Allie Smith’ | St. Tammany community news

What began as a whirlwind, taking over a Mandeville program that had gone through two years of turmoil and change, has now turned into a model of steadiness.

That stems from the work put in by Coach Hutch Gonzales. He now feels comfortable with the reins of the Skippers and has them primed to contend for a District 6-5A championship, as they just missed last season and made an improbable run to the Class 5A quarterfinals.

So who is Hutch Gonzales? He’s a man who loves spending as much time with his family as he does on the football field, even if he doesn’t always have as much time as he’d like to do so.

In our Coaches Corner segments, we take a stroll around the parish and get an inside, personal look at our 12 football coaches in St. Tammany Parish.

HUTCH GONZALES

Age: 37

Wife: Ashley

Children: Samantha (10), Max (8) and one on the way

High school: Covington, Class of 2001

Talk about your family. How much time do you get to spend with them, and what sort of things do y’all like to do?

The big break, and especially the 4 or 5 months before we were able to get back into football was depressing at times and stressful, but it was nice to be able to spend that much time with family and being home. My wife works for parish government, so they were working from home as well. We spent a lot of that time at home together and with the kids, and we did all kinds of fun things.

I got to coach my son in baseball and watch my daughter do gymnastics. Obviously, we were locked in the house for a long time, so we are having another baby (laughs), but it was really nice to spend some quality time with them even if it was just in the yard.

How tough is it balancing being a dad and being a coach? I know your son gets to be out there with you a lot on game days and that’s special.

It’s really nice being the head coach and being able to bring your kids around. We try to keep pretty family friendly, regardless, around here. We love having the coaches’ kids around and meeting the (players). I think it is important for players to see us as dads, so we definitely try to bring the kids around as much as possible.

Max is a big part of our gameday ritual, he helps me lead the warmups, and he runs out of the tunnel with the guys. He spent a ton of time with us and working out with the guys this summer and doing all the conditioning. He’s 8, but he tried to keep up. It’s a lot of fun, and like I said I think it is very important for those guys to know my wife and to know my daughter and know my son and know that I am a family man. And I want them to understand I often treat them like I treat my own children, and I think they can see that when they see me interacting with my kids.

What was the last vacation y’all went on?

We’re big beach people. We just love it. My wife’s family takes three or four beach vacations a year. The last one we went on was with my family – the entire crew. Mom, Dad, both my sisters, their spouses and all their children and us. So there were about 12 people in a large condo in Orange Beach (Ala.) in a condo for about 5 days.

It was nice, relaxing, and everybody got along well. It was fun. That was the first week of August. It was week before we were supposed to go back to school.

A lot of people don’t know your playing career went into college and into the pro ranks. Talk about that.

I was very blessed. As a graduate of Covington High, I played for Allie Smith. I was a pretty good athlete and played four sports in high school. Football, though, I wasn’t going to play in high school. I had kind of given it up and decided it wasn’t for me. Coach Smith almost forced me to go out and play my senior year. So I was a wide receiver, did well, and ended up going to Southeastern through college and had a fun time there.

I played for Hal Mumme (at SLU), and anyone who knows him knows he is the ultimate player’s coach. He is a little bit out there sometimes and the ultimate offensive player’s coach. To go out there as a sophomore and see the field – we lost a year of eligibility when they started the program back – but just with one year of high school football and to have 50-something catches that first year was pretty exciting.

Had a good career there, and then I signed with the Saskatchewan Rough Riders of the (Canadian Football League) and played there in the preseason in 2006 and tore every muscle off my lower leg and had to come home. I spent 6 months learning how to really run again.

Then the (New Orleans) VooDoo (of the Arena Football League) called, and Mike Neu was the coach. I went and worked out with them for a while, and then they shut down the league. It was down for 3 or 4 years, and when they brought it back, (former John Curtis and Memphis QB) Danny Wimprine was going to be the quarterback. He was coming back in 2011, was a familiar face, and he and I had become friends.

He called and said, “Why don’t you come run some routes, get back in shape,” so I did – at this point I was 28 years old and (played) and got to fly all over the country. Went to San Jose (Calif.), did some workouts and I was faster than I had ever been in my life. I was running a 4.40 40 (yards) at 28 years old. I got picked up by the VooDoo, played a season there, had a good time, but then I realized at my age it was time. It was fun to play that one more year, but I was done.

When you get to that age, and you’re not making any money, it’s hard to wake up on Sunday morning and feel like you got hit by a bus. Your kids want to play, and it’s tough to do that. It felt like you should be getting the same amount of money as everybody else when you get knocked two rows deep in the stands into some lady’s nachos.

What’s your normal school day like?

I am an early riser, and I am normally here before 6 o’clock. I come in and get the Field House open and ready to roll. We lift every day, even in season. We’re big in the weight room. I think it’s extremely important for high school kids to be strong so they can remain healthy. I have four conditioning periods in the morning with all football players. We get them in and get them out. We have a 45-minute program that we run them through Monday through Friday, and then I have one class after lunch where I teach strength and conditioning to athletes of other sports. I have lacrosse players, soccer players and track kids.

My last half of the day during the season I am off the last two periods, so that goes into practice planning and sometimes cutting the grass. Right now, I am in the process of cleaning out our equipment shed, so any random project the last couple hours of the day before we start practice.

What led you into coaching?

I will always credit my coaching career to Allie Smith. He was so adamant in me being a football player and being a football coach, even after I was a player. It wasn’t until after college and I had gone into the real world. I owned my own little granite company, an installation thing, and I was a subcontractor going out there and working hard every day.

I was volunteer coaching back at Covington High, but I was making great money when somebody offered me a job as a head baseball coach at Bowling Green in Franklinton. They knew that I was a football guy, but they also knew I was a disciplinarian, and they needed a disciplinarian. They hired me on, and I called my wife and said, “Can we afford for me to take a $70,000 pay cut and go be a coach?”

Fortunately for us, she had just received a nice, hefty raise, and we felt like we could handle it. She said, “If you will come home happier every day, then yes, we can do that.” That was 10 years ago, and that has all I have ever wanted to do since.

You don’t really think about how fast the years go, and you look at some of these guys and they’re in their 80s still coaching football. I think for us coaches, you don’t know what else you would be doing if you weren’t doing that.

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