All that Battlehawks’ left guard Steven Gonzalez needs is an opportunity.

The anchor of Penn State’s offensive line for three seasons, Gonzalez was a substitute teacher looking to keep his gridiron dreams alive after he wasn’t selected in the 2020 NFL Draft. The USFL relaunched in 2022, prior to the XFL in 2023, and the former All Big-Ten lineman was hopeful. The Philadelphia Stars contacted him prior to the draft but Gonzalez’s phone was quiet again on draft day.

“It’s kind of crazy I didn’t get drafted into the USFL (now part of the UFL), looking back on it now, but everything happens for a reason,” Gonzalez, an All-XFL honoree in 2023 and Battlehawks’ offensive captain, said as St. Louis (3-1) prepares to visit the D.C. Defenders (2-2) on Sunday.

“I’m super grateful and super blessed, just happy to be here,” he said.

St. Louis leads the UFL in scoring (26.5 points / game) and the Battlehawks’ feature a balanced attack that’s produced 100-yard rushers for three consecutive weeks. A.J. McCarron attempted a career-high 45 pass attempts in St. Louis’ 32-17 win over Memphis last week and STL’s offensive line kept the pocket clean.

“Don’t get him killed 45 times, that’s pretty much what it is,” Gonzalez said when asked about the O-line’s approach to a pass heavy game plan. “There’s so much that goes into offensive line play – that’s what film and prepping throughout the week is for, we can anticipate those moments (when the defense brings pressure).”

Gonzalez is a leader on the offensive line that returned all five starters plus sixth-man Eric Magwood from last year’s team – a rare level of continuity and cohesion for an offensive line in spring football.

“(I had) a lot of conversations with Steven when I got the job,” St. Louis’ head coach Anthony Becht said. “Talking to him, seeing, and recognizing his talent. Where he was mentally in his life about the game of football – the ups and downs. And then really selling to him a belief that this can be fun and exciting, and he is a very talented player. And ultimately becoming our captain for two straight years.”

APRIL 8, 2023: The Vegas Vipers against the St Louis Battlehawks at The Dome at Americas Center on April 8th, 2023 in St. Louis, MO.
(© Scott Rovak/XFL)


Gonzalez comes from a large family in Union City, New Jersey, just across the Hudson River from Manhattan.  Steven grew to be 6-foot-5 and 341 pounds despite having to battle his siblings for Cuban dishes of rice, beans, and fried chicken.

“For Spanish people, its not too hard to gain weight. My mom cooks really well, my grandma used to cook really well. Just looking at a plate of food, I can gain five pounds.”

Gonzalez chose a Penn State football program reeling from the Jerry Sandusky abuse scandal and he played a pivotal role in helping the Nittany Lions win the 2016 Big Ten championship and earn a trip to the Rose Bowl – the school’s first title since the program was sanctioned for the 2012 and 2013 seasons.

“The program was, kind of, in a dark place when I got there. It was starting to get better, but you just felt that dark cloud looming overhead of us,” he said.

“Honestly, that whole year was just extremely memorable, for me especially, because I started off as a special-teams guy…and then we had a lot of injuries on the O-line and toward the end of the year I got my chance. I started every game at Penn State until the day I left.”

When opportunity calls, Gonzalez answers. The UFL season ends in June and Steven is hoping for that phone call he’s been waiting for.

“God willing I’m on an NFL team (in the fall), whether it’s active or practice squad, doesn’t matter,” he said. “And if that doesn’t work out, we handle the situation as it comes but, that’s what I’m praying for, what I’m hoping for.”

St. Louis and D.C. kickoff from Audi Field on Sunday at 11 A.M.




Andy Carroll

Andy Carroll

Andy Carroll is a freelance sports writer living in the Ozarks with his wife and four great kids. He loves St. Louis, toasted ravioli and minor league baseball. You can follow him on Twitter @carroll_sgf and Instagram @andycarroll505