Regardless of the occupation, it’s always a treat to watch a pro at work. Tony Gonzalez is a pro’s pro. A tiny example:
After practice Tuesday morning, the Falcons’ tight ends gathered around Chris Scelfo, their position coach, for extra work. Taking turns, each slipped on a harness tethered by one of those heavy-duty resistance bands and ran with the ball while being tugged the other way. (Think of this as the John Mackey drill. The greatest-ever tight end would routinely lug defenders for 10-yard ride-alongs.)
It was tough going, and all four were chugging hard. Chugging hardest without seeming to chug at all was Gonzalez, who’s in the discussion when the subject is greatest-ever tight ends. He emits effort without appearing to emit anything at all. In football argot, he has a high motor that runs smooth.
He’s also, as you doubtless know, particular about what he eats. He’s not quite a strict vegetarian, but he’s close. He has just published a book — “The All-Pro Diet: Lose Fat, Build Muscle and Live Like a Champion” — with nutritionist Mitzi Dulan. There aren’t many places less suited to what the book calls a diet “low in animal protein and high in whole organic plant-based and unprocessed food” than the raw-meat realm of professional sports, but Gonzalez tries to put his tofu where his mouth is.
A 2008 Wall Street Journal article by Reed Albergotti describes Gonzalez’s diet, although its title — “The 247 lb. Vegan” – isn’t technically correct. Gonzalez does eat some meat, just not much. (A recent Sports Illustrated profile by Austin Murphy covers much of the same ground and gives a more rounded portrait of Gonzalez.)
Thomas Dimitroff, who made the April trade with Kansas City that brought Gonzalez to Atlanta, follows a similar diet and has passed his annotated list of favorite meatless eateries to the new man. There is, however, one difference: Gonzalez weighs 243 pounds, according to his Falcons’ bio; the general manager might weigh half that.
But enough about lentils. Back to Tuesday’s drill. When finally it was done and the four men headed to the locker room, one said to Gonzalez: “Will you take me to Hawaii, Tony?”
And another said: “Yeah, will you buy me a plane ticket?”
Gonzalez just laughed. Hawaii used to the permanent site of the Pro Bowl. (The 2010 edition will be played in Miami a week before the Super Bowl.) Gonzalez made that trek 10 times in his first 12 seasons as a pro. And now the guys working alongside just look at him and think, “That’s the way it’s done in this league.” Tony Gonzalez’s way.