Los Angeles Chargers tight end Antonio Gates officially retired from the NFL on Tuesday.
“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,” Gates said in a statement. “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.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.”
from Gatesy 💙 pic.twitter.com/8K1OXnFaFp
— Los Angeles Chargers (@chargers) January 14, 2020
Gates was a basketball player in college. The Chargers saw him at a workout and he signed with them as an undrafted free agent in 2003. He hasn’t played since the 2018 season because of going unsigned as a free agent. In 2018, he had 28 receptions for 333 receiving yards and two scores. Gates was an eight-time Pro Bowler and was named to three first-team All-Pro lists. He also helped the Chargers win four straight AFC West titles from 2006 to 2009.
Gates led the Chargers in career receptions (955), receiving yards (11,841), and touchdown catches (116). He ranks first among tight ends in NFL history with 21 career multi-touchdown games and fourth with 21 different 100-yard receiving performances.
“Antonio redefined what the tight end position looks like and is responsible for how we evaluate and view the position in today’s NFL,” Chargers general manager Tom Telesco said. “Rewriting the record book is obviously part of it, but when you needed a big block, needed to convert that first down, needed a steadying voice in the huddle or leadership in the locker room, that was Antonio. He didn’t just do one thing well, he did everything well. And that’s what makes him a first-ballot Hall of Famer in my book.”
As he hasn’t played since 2018, Gates will be eligible for the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2023. He is definitely a future Hall of Famer.