Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez has had plenty of understudies throughout his tenured career, and when it comes to young tight ends, sometimes they listen to what he has to say, sometimes they don’t.
Either way, Gonzalez makes himself available to mentor any of those who are interested and rookie tight end Levine Toilolo has certainly taken Gonzalez up on the offer. Not only that, but it’s resulted in Gonzalez having some extremely high praise for the 6-foot-8 rookie out of Stanford — despite Gonzalez being a Cal guy himself (differences, Gonzalez says, they’ve put aside).
On Thursday, Gonzalez went into detail about all the things that he’s been impressed with when it comes to Toilolo’s progression.
“The difference between a good player and an average player in the NFL is the player that can learn from his mistakes, that doesn’t repeat the same mistake twice, and that’s what Levine is,” Gonzalez said. “He’s done a really nice job of making those mistakes — which we all do, especially rookies — and then not doing it again. That’s how you keep improving. The sky’s the limit with him.”
Gonzalez and Toilolo frequently work together during practice off to the side. If the two are out for a break while other players get some reps, they’re playing Gonzalez’s brand of catch, where the two throw difficult passes to each other to get used to making those catches that are sometimes off the mark.
When they’re not doing that, Toilolo is picking Gonzalez’s brain about anything and everything the future Hall-of-Famer has experienced in his career. It’s these types of actions by Toilolo that leads Gonzalez to believe that, for one, Toilolo can continue to be a viable option for the Falcons offensively this year, and that in years to come, he can be a special player when Gonzalez is gone.
“Everything that I have, I want to teach him,” Gonzalez said. “He’s receptive, too. I’ve done it before where I’ve played with younger players and they don’t listen. You can tell them all you want and they might listen for a week or two, but he’s shown to me that, from the very first time I tell him something, he’ll keep working on it and keep working it. That’s what’s going to make him a good player.
“He’s going to surprise some people with how good he can be if he keeps working on his game and staying after it day in and day out.”