The greatest NFL tight ends of all time are easy to name. Former New England Patriots’ Rob Gronkowski and longtime Atlanta Falcons’ Tony Gonzalez come to mind, as do older Pro Football Hall of Fame players like Mike Ditka and John Mackey. Mackey even has an award named after him given to the NCAA’s best tight end each year.
One guy who gets overlooked despite catching more touchdowns than any other tight end in NFL history is Antonio Gates. An eight-time Pro Bowl selection and three-time first-team All-Pro, Gates played 16 seasons all with the San Diego Chargers/Los Angeles Chargers and is the franchise leader in receptions, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns.
Gates’ shining moment in the NFL was when he stood alone in tight end history. He hauled in a seven-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Philip Rivers against the Miami Dolphins on Sept. 17, 2017 — his 112th career touchdown reception — passing Tony Gonzalez in all-time touchdowns among tight ends.
Antonio Gates’ TD Record
On Tuesday, the Chargers legend announced his retirement from the NFL. The sure bet to be immortalized in Canton, Ohio, also said he’d be staying with the organization in a community engagement role.
Antonio Gates Retirement
“After 16 seasons in the NFL, 16 seasons as a Charger, eight Pro Bowl appearances and many records broken, I find it hard to officially put this statement out and retire from the game of football.
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. 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.Advertisement
To the fans in San Diego, Los Angeles, across the country and around the world, thank you for your unwavering support all these years. There would be no NFL without you,” he wrote on Twitter.
Gates spent his entire career with the Bolts, amassing 11,841 receiving yards and 116 touchdown catches. He played in 12 playoff games, catching two touchdowns in the postseason. He never played in a Super Bowl.
Signed by the Chargers as an undrafted free agent in 2003, Gates was a former college basketball player at Kent State University. He was damn good on the court, too.
As a senior, the 6-foot-4 player averaged 20.6 points and 7.7 rebounds, earning Associated Press Honorable Mention All-American honors. The Golden Flash retired his No. 44 jersey in 2010.
Antonio Gates Basketball Highlights
He originally signed to play college football for Nick Saban at Michigan State, where he planned to play basketball as well. Gates was a standout athlete at Central High School in Detroit, Michigan.
In 2018, it looked as if Gates was finally hanging up the cleats. He was out of the game for much of the offseason and the Chargers publicly parted ways with the legendary tight end. However, up-and-coming tight end Hunter Henry’s injuries forced the team to re-sign Gates. In his last season in the NFL, Chargers’ Antonio Gates caught 28 passes for 333 yards and two touchdowns in 2018.
The eight-time Pro Bowler is done catching passes from Philip Rivers in the AFC West, but it’s not the last you’ll see of Antonio Gates. Gear up for his Hall of Fame speech, Chargers fans.