Celebrated speaker, educator joins GCU faculty
By Mike Kilen
GCU News Bureau
Gian Paul Gonzalez gave a social media shout-out last week that he’s “all in” with Grand Canyon University.
The New York Giants team chaplain is joining GCU as an adjunct professor in the College of Education.
Gonzalez’ surprise motivational preach to the 2012 National Football League team, which then arose from mediocrity to win the Super Bowl, led to his “all in” message being worn on T-shirts across the city, national notoriety, hundreds of motivational speeches and inspiration to many.
In his Instagram post, Gonzalez said he was impressed by the vision of President Brian Mueller and the passion for excellence at the University.
A commitment to excellence is exactly what “all in” is about, whether in your job or family, Gonzalez said in an interview from his home in Union City, N.J.
“When it starts inside it will go wide and will have an effect on all areas of your life. It will almost feel like a habit,” Gonzalez said of the motto, adding that it hit home for many because “it’s about totally being present in the moments that really matter.”
“Just having the ability to be fully present is such a powerful thing, giving it all you have, win or lose. It’s like Jesus said about the person who invested it and didn’t bury it. He didn’t say, ‘Well, we’ll see what happens.’ I invested in, I gave it my best shot and that’s all God asks of us.”
Gonzalez was just getting warmed up.
“We don’t have to be a CEO or the quarterback of a football team. We all have these little opportunities to spend that extra five minutes to be fully present with your daughter sitting on your lap or at work, taking that five minutes to do a job no one else wants to do.”
He was asked how that will translate to his job teaching curriculum classes and assessment and evaluation for humanities teachers.
“I’m always encouraging students to keep the content relevant, that it’s not just pedagogical,” said Gonzalez, who started in the classroom as a history teacher. “Go back to when you were 16 and now imagine being in the fifth Zoom call and it’s not even 11 a.m. How can you make this old, dead guy relevant? Ask what do you think of Alexander the Great, studying under all these great philosophers, what was that like? Bring the content alive.”
Gonzalez wants to bring that passion to GCU while juggling his many duties in New Jersey, where he is executive director of the Hope + Future Center, an after-school program that has grown to 1,500 members, a motivational speaker, a team chaplain for the Giants and even as a barista.
Gonzalez thought the town was short a good coffee shop and opening one would offer a venue to train young people in a trade. But he didn’t know the business, so he’s taking an internship with a coffee shop to learn it before opening one.
“If you can pull a good espresso shot, you can get a job anywhere in the world,” he said.
“But it’s not just throwing espresso in water and saying, ‘It looks brown,’ It’s dialing into the espresso, the exact amount, finding the bitter and sour and finding the exact spot throughout the day that it changes to sweetness. It’s being committed to excellence.”
Gonzalez was impressed with GCU when he returned to campus 15 years after playing in a basketball tournament at GCU while a member of the Montclair (N.J.) State University team. What he said looked like a primary school then became a robust Christian University by the time he came back to speak at GCU’s Commencement in 2018. It was like none he had experienced, not just with its growing campus of physical beauty but with its sense of purpose.
“There was an atmosphere, a difference, about it,” he said. “The best way I could describe it is GCU was proud of its excellence but at the same time wasn’t filled with its excellence. We aren’t full of ourselves, but we are full of ourselves that we can make an impact in Phoenix in a positive way. That really spoke to me.”
Gonzalez, 37, earned his master’s degree in educational leadership at William Paterson University and has two children, ages 3 and 9 months.
COE Dean Dr. Kimberly LaPrade likes his passion for teaching and experience working with inner-city youth: “Gian Paul’s “all in” attitude is inspiring, and he is a great role model for all of us.”
Grand Canyon University senior writer Mike Kilen can be reached at [email protected] or at 602-639-6764.