There should be little doubt that five years after he catches his final pass in the National Football League, Antonio Gates will be a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Gates’ 719 career catches are fourth-most in NFL history among tight ends behind Shannon Sharpe (815), Jason Witten (879) and Tony Gonzalez’s (1,325), while his 9,193 receiving yards are also fourth behind the same three, (Gonzalez 15,127, Sharpe 10,060 and Witten 9,799). In touchdowns though, Gates’ 87 career touchdown catches are second-most among tight ends in NFL history behind Gonzalez’s 111. His 87 total TDs since arriving in the NFL in 2003 are tied with Arizona’s Larry Fitzgerald for second-most in the league over the last 11 seasons. And Gates’ total of 60 touchdowns between he and quarterback
Gates led the team in 2013 with 77 catches and he was second with 872 yards. It marked the eighth time in 11 seasons that he led the team in catches. Five times he’s led the team in yards. He has 21 career 100-yard games, sixth-most in team history and fourth-most among all NFL tight ends since 1960. The 2013 season was the sixth of Gates’ career in which he tallied at least 70 catches and 800 yards.
Besides his lofty position among NFL pass catchers, Gates is beloved in the San Diego community. He has shown a caring heart since arriving as a free agent basketball phenom from Kent State University. His signature Shop with a Charger event is one of the most popular holiday events in town as Gates hosts homeless, neglected and abused children to a special night that includes a Christmas shopping spree. He is also the honorary chairman for the annual Shoot to Cure HD, which raises much-needed research funds for the Huntington’s Disease Society of America. And he works closely with Promises2Kids, an organization that offers support to San Diego’s foster youth community.
Gates’ paternal grandfather, Henry Hank, was a professional boxer in the 1950s and ’60s who fought 97 professional bouts as a middleweight and light heavyweight, winning 62 of them. His 1962 fight against Joey Giardello was voted the Fight of the Year by Ring Magazine. Old photos show a striking resemblance between Gates and his grandfather. Gates’ cousin, Tony Harrison is one of boxing’s top young middleweights. Harrison has started his career 18-0 with 15 wins by knockout.
Had Gates not opted for a career in athletics, he might have tried his hand as a firefighter. A couple of years ago, a group of firefighters attended a training camp practice and one of the most enamored players was Gates. He told several that long ago he’d dreamed of being a firefighter. So several weeks later, the assistant San Diego fire chief returned to Chargers Park and presented Gates with a SDFD firefighting jacket with his own name and number.