Antonio Gates is on the brink of not only breaking a record but setting a trend for the future of the tight end position. The Chargers veteran is one touchdown away from setting the all-time record for most touchdowns by a tight end, surpassing former Chiefs and Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez. He currently has 111 touchdown catches.
"I mean obviously that milestone is an unbelievable accomplishment, I would definitely embrace it," Gates said of the possibility of setting the record. "I would celebrate with my teammates and my family. Every week is something different, once Monday hits whether I get it (the record) or not, I wouldn't allow that to live on past that week. If I get it, I would enjoy it and be appreciative of it. It's an incredible task to conquer, but it's week to week in the league. So my focus is on doing whatever I can and getting better."
Gates was an undrafted rookie in 2003 from Kent State, and the basketball star-turned-football pro approached the position with an uncanny method in order to force defenses to change and reconstruct their coverage on him in games.
Over the past 14 seasons, Philip Rivers and Gates have connected on 84 touchdowns, the most ever for a quarterback-tight end duo. These two will go down in history as one of the most effective dynamic duos in the NFL.
Ironically, Gates went from fighting for a position on the team in his first two seasons, to now mentoring younger players like Hunter Henry and others on his team. He continues to have fun while continually perfecting his craft after 15 seasons in the NFL.
"Doing the little details things, obviously everyone here can run, jump, catch, etc.," Gates explained. "It about doing the extra things that you can't see. I've always been about that in my career, and implement that in my play. I tried to lead by example, and hopefully the younger guys will follow that."
Of course he isn't focused on setting the record. When he does, however, the 27,000 fans in attendance on Sunday against the Dolphins will be witnessing history at the Stub Hub Center. When Gates is able to put on that gold jacket in Canton, Ohio and have his jersey retired, he will be missed tremendously in football.
He'll be missed not just because he has the all-time record, but because of what he meant to the game, the position, his preparation, and how he electrified the sidelines like no other.