Published on February 26, 2024 by Eric Holsomback  
eric gonzalez headshot

Samford University’s School of Health Professions has a reputation for supporting the development of outstanding graduates across a range of fields. Eric Gonzalez, 19’ stands as a prime example of the school’s impact. As a physical therapy alumnus, Gonzalez's journey from Samford to his current role as the director of rehabilitation for the Cincinnati Reds epitomizes the transformative power of mentorship and aspiration. In an interview, Gonzalez shared insights into his career trajectory and the influence of his alma mater on his professional development.

Gonzalez's deep respect for his Samford professors is evident. Even after graduation, their mentorship remains an invaluable resource, with Gonzalez seeking their guidance in navigating challenging cases. "The professors at Samford have been instrumental in my career," Gonzalez affirms. "Maintaining those relationships has been crucial, especially when confronting complex scenarios in my practice."

Reflecting on his Samford experience, Gonzalez highlights the university's role in equipping him with the knowledge and tools essential for success in the health care realm. He credits Samford's physical therapy faculty for laying a solid foundation, particularly emphasizing the significance of acquiring a strong baseline in the field. This robust educational background proved instrumental as Gonzalez embarked on his professional journey post-graduation.

Having graduated in 2019, Gonzalez wasted no time making his mark in the physical therapy landscape. He began his career at Shelby Baptist Medical Center in Alabaster, Alabama, where he gained invaluable experience in acute care settings, which prepared him for unforeseen challenges inherent in-patient care. Transitioning to outpatient orthopedic clinics, Gonzalez honed his manual skills while witnessing the full spectrum of patient recovery—an experience that would later serve him well in his tenure with the Reds.

It was Gonzalez's passion for both physical therapy and baseball that propelled him toward his current role. His collegiate and professional baseball background, coupled with bilingual proficiency in Spanish, uniquely positioned him for an opportunity with the Reds. Starting as a Minor League Baseball physical therapist, Gonzalez steadily ascended within the organization, eventually assuming the position of director of rehabilitation. His journey serves as a testament to his dedication and niche expertise within the competitive world of professional sports.

Gonzalez often returns to Samford as a guest lecturer, which holds profound significance for him. Recalling his graduate school years, he said, "My time at Samford was incredible," Gonzalez reminisces. "Being asked to impart my knowledge to current students is not just an honor but a chance to give back to a university that has given me so much."

One story he tells current students is when he accepted Georgia Cook, a third-year fast-track physical therapy student, for a clinical internship with the Reds. For Cook, the experience represents a golden opportunity to glean insights into treating professional athletes—an endeavor made all the more enriching under Gonzalez's mentorship. Her decision to reach out to Gonzalez, despite their initial unfamiliarity, speaks a lot about her ambition and proactive approach to her career.

Cook's admiration for Gonzalez is evident, emphasizing his expertise and passion for his profession. She notes that his genuine care for athletes transcends mere treatment, fostering trust and rapport—a testament to the holistic approach Gonzalez embodies as a physical therapist.

Within health care education, Samford University's School of Health Professions prides itself in nurturing talent. Eric Gonzalez's journey from the School of Health Professions to the Cincinnati Reds exemplifies the impact of mentorship and dedication. His return to share insights highlights the school's commitment to developing future leaders through the amazing alumni base. Through mentorship, as seen with aspiring professionals like Georgia Cook, the School of Health Professions plays a vital role in shaping the health care landscape.

Samford is a leading Christian university offering undergraduate programs grounded in the liberal arts with an array of nationally recognized graduate and professional schools. Founded in 1841, Samford is the 87th-oldest institution of higher learning in the United States. Samford enrolls 5,791 students from 49 states, Puerto Rico and 16 countries in its 10 academic schools: arts, arts and sciences, business, divinity, education, health professions, law, nursing, pharmacy and public health. Samford fields 17 athletic teams that compete in the tradition-rich Southern Conference and ranks 6th nationally for its Graduation Success Rate among all NCAA Division I schools.