by Kristen Schneider '12
Senior cornerback and team captain Tony Gordon (Euclid) has anchored a defensive unit that has guided Heidelberg University to a 4-1 overall and 3-1 Ohio Athletic Conference record this season, but he does not hold himself responsible. Gordon attributes the Student Princes’ accomplishments to the team’s belief in the coaching system. He says that with all 150 student-athletes trusting and backing the decisions of the coaching staff, they have found a bond unlike in years past.
For Gordon, that bond has created success both for the team and for himself. It is not only this bond he shares that creates his success; it is his hard work both on and off the field.
Before each game, Gordon envisions how the game will play out. Envisioning what the opponent’s offense looks like, envisioning how his mark will try to beat him, envisioning what the other team’s favorite plays are and envisioning what he needs to do to shut them down. It is not all just a mind game, though; it is also the physical work at each practice. Gordon refuses to let himself lose focus for even a minute. Instead, his constant focal point is practicing as hard as if it were his biggest game.
Despite his self-motivation and leadership on and off the field, Gordon still finds sources of motivation other than himself. His parents, Anthony Gordon Sr. and Cecelia Oatman, play a vital role is his success as a student, athlete and person, and have supported him in a number of ways, as parents usually will. Says Gordon, “The least I can do is present myself as the respectful man they continue to raise me to be.” It is Mr. and Mrs. Gordon who inspire, motivate, and drive Tony to reach his goals.
Occasionally, Gordon will look beyond his parents to find his drive…sometimes to Ohio native, former Heisman Trophy winner and current Green Bay Packer cornerback Charles Woodson. Gordon models his style of player after Woodson’s trying to be all over the field to make plays, something he’s done this season and throughout his career. He has played in all 35 games of his collegiate career, including making 30 consecutive starts. This season, he has notched 23 tackles, including one-half tackle for loss from his cornerback position and has intercepted two passes, including one in last weekend’s 17-7 win at Muskingum University. “With this defense,” he says, “I feel more comfortable and feel like I can be that impact player like Charles Woodson.”
Two weeks ago, Gordon took this mindset into the Student Princes’ last home game against Capital, which turned into a 55-3 Heidelberg victory on Homecoming. Fifth-year head coach Mike Hallett and defensive coordinator Scott Donaldson charged Gordon with covering one of the top receiver’s in the OAC in Matt White. White caught just four passes for 20 yards, while the Gordon led secondary limited the Crusaders to a paltry 87 passing yards.
In the week leading up to Homecoming, Gordon found even more motivation by challenging the coaching staff and freshman wide receiver Christian Dominguez (Miami, Fla./Ferguson). If Dominguez catch a pass in practice, he ran gassers after practice. But, if Gordon shut Dominguez down, it was defensive line coach Corey Fillipovich who had to run. “I didn’t have to run once,” Gordon added.
Going into a game, Gordon likes to wake up an hour before team meetings to get a “fresh start” by taking a shower and listening to music afterwards. Following team meetings and a team breakfast, the Student Princes take their “champions walk,” when the team walks from Hoernemann Hall to the 50-yard line prior to a game. Finally, his thumbs are taped and number 24 is ready to compete.
This week, Heidelberg will face No. 2 Mount Union (5-0, 4-0 OAC) with a share of first place in the conference on the line. “The goal is to stop their favorite plays and get them out of their comfort zone so that they have to make plays they are always asked to make,” he said. Concentrating on shutting down the Purple Raiders’ running game is the biggest part of his “envisioning process” for today’s game.
“It’s going to be about the mental toughness,” Gordon admitted. “The major challenge is not letting outside hype build in our heads. Mount Union is a good football team, but so are we.”
Today is one of five games left the 2011 schedule, which means Gordon’s football career is quickly coming to a close. But, for him, there is no “after football.” For Gordon, football does not just end. When asked what he might do after graduating next May, he said he was highly considering becoming a graduate assistant coach at the Berg and studying sports management.
After leaving Tiffin, Gordon would eventually like to become a high school athletic director. He believes the key is to move south to Alabama or Mississippi, where his family is from.
For now, Gordon has five games left.
Five games to leave a mark.
Five games to make plays.
Five games to leave everything inside him out on the field.