A naturally gifted athlete, Peter only started to play contact football as a high school freshman. It didn’t take long for him to set his sights on college football.
“I loved it and I knew that I wanted to continue playing but at a higher level,” he says.
During his sophomore year at Central Catholic in Pittsburgh’s Oakland neighborhood, Peter played wide receiver for the first time. That’s when college recruiters began to take notice of his speed and talent.
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A Devastating Off-Season Knee Injury
To gain exposure with more college recruiters — and to fine-tune his football skills — Peter played 7-on-7 tournaments in the off-season. But in January 2022, he tore the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in his right knee.
The timing was terrible. Peter was considered one of the state’s top-three college recruits and a standout junior season would confirm his status. Because it can take up to a year to recover from ACL reconstruction surgery, the injury threatened to sideline him for the 2022 football season.
The Path to UPMC
Athletes come to UPMC from around the world to take advantage of its research-driven and cutting-edge orthopaedic care.
“The individualized ACL procedure we use on all our patients was developed by the late Dr. Freddie Fu, who founded the UPMC sports medicine program in 1986,” explains Volker Musahl, MD, a world-renowned sports surgeon who performed Peter’s surgery. Dr. Musahl trained under Dr. Fu and is now medical director, UPMC Sports Medicine. “We continue Dr. Fu’s legacy by doing our best work for every patient —whether they are pro athletes, talented high school athletes, or weekend warriors.”
Peter’s dad, Pete Gonzalez, Sr., was a quarterback for the University of Pittsburgh football team in the late 1990s. At the time, Dr. Fu was the team physician and Dr. Musahl was in training. “My dad has been going to UPMC Sports Medicine since his college days,” says Peter. “He told me that’s where I would get the best care, and he was right.”
Surgery and Rigorous Rehab
Two days after successful ACL surgery on Jan. 29, 2022, Peter began a rigorous rehabilitation program under the careful supervision of Erica Coffey, PT, MS, SCS, residency director of sports physical therapy at UPMC.
“The first day of rehab was eye-opening,” says Peter. “I didn’t know lifting my leg off the ground could be so hard.”
Knowing Peter was eager to get back to playing football, Erica and Dr. Musahl developed a strict but carefully designed rehab program to help him return to the field safely. “Erica never let me take shortcuts,” says Peter. “She pushed me to the limit that she knew I could achieve, but she was always focused on doing it safely,”
Getting Back in the Game
On Sept. 16, 2022 — just over seven months after ACL surgery — Peter was back on the football field.
“Everyone was a bit worried about my return, but I had faith that it was the best decision for my team,” he says. “I only played 20 snaps that game, but it felt good to be back.”
Despite his late start to the 2022 season, Peter ended up with 42 receptions for 735 yards and seven touchdowns. He also earned all-conference honors as wide receiver for WPIAL Class 6A runner-up Central Catholic. And he received scholarship offers from 13 NCAA Division I schools.
He has committed to play college football at Penn State in 2024.
“Getting back to playing football was a long process, but I’ve had no problems with my knee since the surgery,” says Peter. “I trusted the plan that Dr. Musahl and Erica put together for me. They knew what my goal was and made sure that we could get there safely.
“They are the reason I was able to get back to playing football after just seven and a half months.”
About Sports Medicine
An athletic lifestyle carries the potential for injury. Whether you’re an elite athlete or a weekend warrior, UPMC Sports Medicine can help. If you are looking to prevent, treat, or rehabilitate a sports injury, our multidisciplinary team of experts can help you get back into the game. If you are seeking to improve your athletic performance, we can work with you to meet your goals. We serve athletes and active people of all ages and experience levels. Our goal is to help you keep doing what you love. Visit our website to find a specialist near you.