After 16-years in the NFL, Chargers tight end Antonio Gates has decided to hang up his cleats.
Antonio Gates announced his retirement via twitter yesterday bringing to a close one of the greatest careers by a tight end.
Gates holds the record for touchdowns by a tight end (116) after surpassing former Kansas City Chiefs and Atlanta Falcons legend Tony Gonzalez during the 2017 season against the Miami Dolphins.
During an illustrious career, the 39-year-old reeled in 955 targets (17th all-time) for 11,841 yards (29th all-time), resulting in eight trips to the Pro Bowl and three first-team All-Pro selections.
Gates’s route to the NFL is unique as the former basketball star never played football at the collegiate level. Nick Saban, the then Michigan State coach.. wanted Gates to focus solely on football a notion Gates wasn’t comfortable with – Inevitably Gates decided to transfer.
A further two transfers and Gates found himself at Kent State University. During his two years at Kent State, Gates excelled as a power forward for the Golden Flashes – During which the Flashes won back-to-back Mid-American Conference Championships, the first in school history.
Despite the achievements, scouts weren’t sold on Gates as an NBA prospect. Back to the drawing board Gates went, resulting in arranged workouts for numerous NFL teams.
First up, the then-San Diego Chargers. Clearly smitten with Gates’ physical attributes and overall potential the two sides agreed to terms back in 2003.
Gates spent the first three years of his career reeling in passes from Drew Brees. During his rookie season, Gates reeled in 24 passes for 389 yards and two touchdowns, whilst averaging 16.2 yards per reception, which remained his career-best.
A breakout campaign in 2004 (934 yards, 13 touchdowns) during which the tight end broke the single-season record for touchdowns by a tight end (12), resulted in a contract holdout prior to the 2005 season (signed a six-year $24m deal).
From 2004-2011 Gates was named to eight consecutive Pro Bowls. During that span the future Hall-of-Famer reeled in 569 passes for 7394 yards, scoring 74 touchdowns in the process.
Injuries came went as did numerous records during the latter part of an outstanding career, which surely results in a first-ballot Hall-of-Fame selection in five years’ time.
For more NFL coverage visit our dedicated page here.