Peyton Manning, Former NFL Players Back Gonzalez in Ohio

Ex-Indianapolis Colts wideout Anthony Gonzalez works NFL connections for big donations

Former Ohio State University football standout and NFL wide receiver Anthony Gonzalez has earned the support of NFL friends and some experienced GOP operatives. (Courtesy Anthony Gonzalez for Congress/Facebook)

Former NFL wide receiver Anthony Gonzalez stopped collecting passes from Peyton Manning when Manning left for the Denver Broncos in 2011.

Now Gonzalez is collecting campaign money from his former quarterback.

Instead of footballs on Sundays, it’s cash toward Gonzalez’ bid for Ohio’s open 16th District seat.

Gonzalez, a Republican and Ohio State University standout who caught passes for five seasons for the Indianapolis Colts before retiring in 2011, raised more than $525,000 in less than a month, according to his third-quarter FEC filings.

He got a little help from his football pals.

Manning, who swatted away speculation that he might run for the Senate seat being vacated by Republican Bob Corker, forked over $5,400 — the maximum allowed for an individual, $2,700 for the primary and general each.

Gonzalez raised an additional $12,700 from other connections from his playing days, including Cleveland Browns owners Jimmy and Dee Haslam, former Buckeyes and Green Bay Packers linebacker A.J. Hawk, and Pro Bowl center LeCharles Bentley.

“I am humbled and grateful for the outpouring of support that our initial outreach generated,” Gonzalez said in a statement.

“The level of excitement for our message as well as a complete dissatisfaction with how Washington is currently operating has been staggering, and I look forward to continuing to take our message to the voters.”

Gonzalez launched his campaign Sept. 5 to fill the seat occupied by four-term GOP Rep. Jim Renacci, who is running to replace term-limited Ohio Gov. John Kasich.

Unlike many celebrity political candidates — Gonzalez is one of a handful expected to declare this cycle — he has surrounded himself with seasoned GOP political operatives.

“In my entire professional career, I have been blessed to be a part of many winning teams,” Gonzalez said. “I could not be happier with the team that we have assembled, and look forward to the exciting and challenging road ahead.”

His advisers have worked in senior positions on presidential, gubernatorial, and congressional campaigns for Sen. John McCain in 2008, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie in 2009 and 2013, and Ohio Sen. Rob Portman.

“He’s surrounded himself with a bunch of heavyweights in the political world,” his campaign director, Tim Lolli, said. (Lolli was formerly an aide to former House Speaker John Boehner and Rep. David Joyce, both Ohio Republicans.)

“It’s an A-plus team across the board,” he said.

Gonzalez will square off against a field of Republican state lawmakers in the primary next May, including Reps. Christina Hagan and Tom Patton.

Ohio’s 16th District spans Wayne County in northeastern Ohio and five other counties, including some in the eastern suburbs of Akron. It has been firmly within the GOP grasp since the 1960s.

Donald Trump carried the district by nearly 17 points in 2016,  according to calculations by Daily KOS Elections.

Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzalez rates the race Solid Republican.

Gonzalez, 32, has broken into the business world since retiring from football. He earned his MBA from Stanford University in 2014 and was chief operating officer of Chalk Schools in San Francisco before moving back to Ohio.

Gonzalez is the descendant of Cuban immigrants who fled the country after Fidel Castro overthrew dictator Fulgencio Batista in 1959.

Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call on your iPhone or your Android.