By Matthew Asher
Anthony David Gonzalez, TE #88
Hometown: Torrance, California
College: UC Berkeley
Experience: 16 years
Tony Gonzalez might want to rethink his decision to retire at the end of this season with the way he’s been playing. With his six games played so far this season, Tony has 6th most receptions (43), 25th most yards (430) and tied for 11th with most touchdown catches (4) in the entire league. And those stats are even more impressive when you remember he’s the tight end in an offense that includes wide receivers Julio Jones and Roddy White.
Simply put, Tony Gonzalez is an amazing tight end. In his 16th NFL season, Gonzalez owns four NFL records: most receptions by a tight end in both a single season (102 in 2004) and for a career(1,175); Gonzalez also has the most reception yards by a tight end (13,603) and career touchdowns (99). Assuming Tony catches one more touchdown this season, he will be just the eighth player in NFL history with 100 or more career touchdowns.
Gonzalez attended Huntington Beach High school where he lettered in baseball, football and basketball. In basketball Gonzalez won the Orange County and Sunset League MVP averaging 26 points per game.
In his senior year in football, Tony played both tight end and linebacker. As a receiver he recorded 62 passes for 945 yards and 13 touchdowns. Tony was named the Orange County High School Co-Athlete of the Year. The other winner? Tiger Woods for golf.
Tony attended UC Berkeley and played both football and basketball. In football Gonzalez was an All-Pac 10 and All-American selection. As a junior Gonzalez caught 44 balls for 699 yards and 5 TDs. In basketball that year Gonzalez helped the Golden Bears make it to the Sweet Sixteen in the NCAA Basketball Tournament. That year he averaged 6.8 points and 5.4 rebounds per game. These basketball skills are one of the main reasons he’s been dominant in the NFL.
Gonzalez decided to pursue football and forego his final year of eligibility to enter the NFL Draft. Tony was selected with the 13th pick by Kansas City. He would play there for 12 years before being traded to Atlanta in 2009. In those 12 years as a Chief, Tony became the franchise leader with most career receptions (916), receiving yards (10,940), receiving touchdowns (76), yards from scrimmage (10,954) and consecutive games with a reception (130).
Tony left Kansas City because in the twilight of the career he had never even won a single NFL Playoff game. He thought Atlanta would help him not just get over that hump, but also win a Super Bowl with.
Tony returned to Kansas City as a player for the first time in Atlanta’s opening season game. He did well and even caught a touchdown pass. After his score, the ball squirted loose into the end zone. Ryan chased it down and gave it back to Gonzalez, who promptly dunked the ball over the goalpost, a celebration he did many times as a Kansas City Chief. The fans this timed booed Tony for his celebration.
But Tony didn’t take it personally. He enjoyed the trip to Kansas City. “It’s been like a homecoming for me,” Gonzalez said after the game. “I just want all the fans to know, ‘I love you very much and thank you for letting this day be special.’”
Gonzalez wasn’t the only Falcon who knew how special that final TD in KC was for Tony: his quarterback Matt Ryan. “He’s such a great part of this organization,” Ryan said. “I think deep down in their hearts, Kansas City fans were happy to see that one more time.” Showing his sense of humor, Ryan did add “Maybe not at the time. Maybe in retrospect.”
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Matthew Asher is a freelance writer covering all things Atlanta sports related. His work can be found on Examiner.com.