Chargers Icon Antonio Gates Announces Retirement

Future HOF - 16 Seasons as Tight End with Franchise

Tight end Antonio Gates of the Chargers has announced his retirement from the NFL. Gates played 16 years with the Chargers, starting in 2003 and ending in 2018. Gates sat out the 2019 season as an unrestricted free agent. Gates is the NFL all-time leader from the tight end position in touchdown receptions with 116.

Gates joined the Chargers as an undrafted free agent out of Kent State, having never played college football. At Kent State, Gates played basketball, averaging 18.1 points per game and 7.9 rebounds per game in his final two seasons.

Gates was a power forward and wanted to play in the NBA, but at 6'4" was too small to play power forward and not quick enough to cover small forwards. His agent, understanding that the NFL might have interest in his skill set, helped arrange workouts with NFL teams. The Chargers showed interest and signed him as an undrafted free agent.

"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," said Gates, the NFL record holder for career receiving touchdowns by a tight end.

"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, Dean Spanos and the Spanos family, and the National Football League for the opportunity to live out a dream and play the game I love. And 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."

Gates added: "While today I am officially retiring as a Charger, I am grateful that I will still be lending my services to the Chargers organization – just now in a completely different capacity through the team's community engagement initiatives and public facing events."

At the tight end position, he also ranks first in league history with 21 career multi-touchdown games and fourth in league annals with 21 100-yard receiving performances. On the receiving end of 89 career touchdowns from quarterback Philip Rivers, the Gates-Rivers tandem has combined for the most touchdowns of any QB-TE combo in league history and ranks No. 2 among any QB-WR combination in NFL annals.

Rivers will miss Gates, stating: "Gatesy is as competitive as anybody I have ever been around. No matter what we were doing, he played to win. He would probably tell you; he never even lost an argument. We were also locker mates for 15 seasons. I enjoyed so much the conversations we had about family, life, children, sports, and anything in between. I truly miss those times we would just sit there after practice and just talk and laugh and argue."

Rivers added: "He no doubt is one of the greatest tight ends to ever play the game. He will be in the HOF in three years, and it's well deserved. I love my friend, my teammate, Antonio Gates."

Gates will become eligible for the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2023. He would appear to be a lock as a first ballot hall-of-famer. He may not be the only tight end in the 2023 class. It is expected that Dallas Cowboys tight end Jason Witten will announce his retirement from the Cowboys. Witten should also be a first ballot hall-of famer. Only nine tight ends have ever been inducted into the Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio. To have two in one year would be a truly special Hall of Fame Class.


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