Gage Goldberg was on the verge earlier this month of accepting a preferred walk-on opportunity to play football at Alabama.
Then news broke that legendary Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban was retiring.
“Literally our plans completely changed,” said Bill Goldberg, Gage’s father and a WWE Hall of Famer.
It didn’t take long for the Goldbergs to find a nice backup plan. On Jan. 14, Gage, a linebacker at Boerne Champion (Texas) High School, verbally committed to Colorado, accepting a PWO opportunity to play for the Buffaloes and head coach Deion Sanders.
“One, Deion is obviously an amazing coach and he’s gonna help me excel for the next four to five years and maybe, hopefully get me to the next level,” Gage said, “or just make me a better person during this whole process, make me a better teammate.
“I like where the program is going, too.”
It’s an opportunity that Gage and his father are both excited about.
“As a parent with so many variables that could go wrong – and I’ve been there and I’ve done that and I was a lot wilder than this little kid, fortunately – but as a parent, you want the scenario to be as many positives as humanly possible,” Bill said.
Bill believes having his son at CU is a good situation on and off the field, in large part because of Sanders.
Bill made a name for himself as Goldberg, a WWE superstar who began his career 173-0, including a defeat of Hulk Hogan for the heavyweight championship.
Before that, however, Bill earned a scholarship to play defensive tackle at Georgia, where he played for legendary coach Vince Dooley. He was then selected in the 11th round of the 1990 NFL Draft by the Los Angeles Rams. Eventually, he played three seasons (1992-94) with the Atlanta Falcons, playing two of those years with Sanders.
“For some reason, we got to be very good friends,” Bill said.
Recently, Bill has been impressed in watching Sanders’ college coaching career documented at Jackson State and now CU.
“What a mentor and what an opportunity (for Gage),” Bill said. “For him to get this opportunity, a place where we have family, a lot of familiarity and it’s a great program – and you’ve got Deion there, it’s a no-brainer.”
Despite excelling at linebacker in high school, Gage didn’t get big-time scholarship offers, in part, he believes, because he’s focused a lot of time on baseball, as well. When many other football recruits have been at camps, Gage has been playing catcher for the Chargers, who were state semifinalists last spring. He will shift that focus solely to football this summer.
“Playing two sports in high school, it makes you a better athlete,” Gage said. “Once I get to Colorado and focus on just one sport, I feel like I’m just going to hit that growth spurt of just playing football in the next one or two years and it’s just gonna be crazy.”
Gage will actually be the second member of the family to play for the Buffs. David Goldberg, Bill’s nephew, lettered at CU from 2009-11. Bill’s brother, Michael, still lives in Aspen and owns the Matsuhisa restaurants in Aspen, Vail and Denver.
It is Gage, however, that has had the pressure of living up to the Goldberg name, especially in athletics.
“He’s made a name for himself, but he’s had a target on his back because of me,” Bill said. “It is what it is.”
Gage embraces the positives of being the son of a celebrity.
“The good thing about it, I have a legacy already, but I’m also creating my own legacy and that lets me set this unreal totem pole for myself to try to strive for and try to be better than him,” Gage said. “I’m using his legacy to make my own legacy and using him as a launch.”
That is, in many ways, what Sanders’ sons have done, too, which is part of why the Goldbergs like this opportunity at CU. Coach Prime knows how to handle players who have a famous father, given that Shedeur Sanders is the Buffs’ quarterback and Shilo Sanders a starting safety.
Gage hasn’t been in the spotlight as much as Shedeur and Shilo, but he has actually been in the ring a few times with his father in front of large audiences and on national TV.
“It was obviously amazing and it definitely helped me get more acclimated to the big crowds and help with not being nervous,” Gage said. “I don’t feel like I feel as much pressure as other people do and I just go out there and wing it sometimes.”
The Goldbergs didn’t wing it on this decision, though, as Gage picked the best situation for himself – and Bill is proud of him for that.
“None of those advantages (of being wealthy and famous) could take me back to college football, which was the most fun I ever had in my life, so I want the experience to be great for him,” Bill said. “Taking everything into consideration, an opportunity is all we’re asking for. … He got an opportunity and it’s our job to make the best of it.”