Antonio Gates is calling it a career. On Tuesday, the Chargers legend announced his retirement from the NFL.
“I never dreamed that I would play this game of football so long or how fortunate I would be to play it with just one organization,” the tight end said. “I want to thank the Chargers organization, the National Football League, Dean Spanos and the Spanos family for the opportunity to live out a dream and play the game I love.”
Gates, 39, did not suit up last year. Before that, he spent 16 straight seasons with the Chargers and built a reputation as one of the league’s most dangerous tight ends.
Between 2004 and 2011, Gates racked up eight straight Pro Bowl nods and three First-Team All-Pro selections. He topped 1,100 receiving yards twice (2005 and 2009) and flirted with the 1,000-yard mark in 2004, 2006, and 2007. He gave opposing defenses fits in his 30s, too. In 2013, in his age-33 season, he caught 77 passes for 872 yards.
Gates was a star on Kent State’s basketball team, but did not play football in college. When scouts told him he was too small to play power forward in the NBA, the 6’4″ athlete set his sights on the NFL. The Chargers signed him as as undrafted free agent in 2003 and he managed to go from third-stringer to starter as a rookie.
After tallying 955 receptions, 11,841 yards, and 116 touchdowns, Gates is walking away from the sport. He’ll become eligible for the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2023 and, in all likelihood, enter Canton as a first-ballot nominee.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.