Antonio Gates is an eight-time Pro Bowl tight end for the San Diego Chargers. He played college basketball at Kent State University before signing with the Chargers as undrafted free agent prior to the 2003 season.
Gates was born in Detroit, MI on June 18, 1980 and starred on the football and basketball team at Central High School. Though he excelled as a football player, he found even greater success on the basketball court, leading his team to the state championship game as a senior and finishing second in Michigan’s Mr. Basketball Award balloting. After graduation, he signed a letter of intent at Michigan State University with hopes of continuing to play two sports at the college level.
Michigan State/Eastern Michigan/Kent State
Much to Gates dismay, Michigan State head football coach Nick Saban wanted him to only play football for the Spartans. Instead of staying at the school, he transferred to Eastern Michigan University to play basketball. He only played part of a season for the Eagles before playing at two junior colleges and eventually transferring to Kent State University. As a member of the Golden Flashes, he received honorable mention All-American honors as a basketball player while leading the team to the Elite Eight in the 2002 NCAA Tournament. Despite his success, he was viewed as a marginal NBA prospect and decided to transition towards a football career after graduation.
San Diego Chargers
Realizing his chances of playing in the NBA were slim, Gates turned his attention to the gridiron and scheduled a workout in front of NFL scouts. Even though he hadn’t played in college, the San Diego Chargers saw great potential in him and signed him as an undrafted free agent prior to the 2003 season. He caught 24 passes as a rookie and quickly developed into one of the NFL’s premier tight ends, tying an NFL-record with 13 touchdown receptions during the 2004 season. He received a six-year deal prior to the 2005 season and caught 89 passes for 1,101 yards and 10 scores en route to being named First-Team All-Pro for the second straight season.
Injuries plagued Gates during 2007 and 2008, but he returned to All-Pro form while snagging 79 passes for a career-best 1,157 yards during the 2009 campaign. During the 2011 season, he became the franchise’s all-time leader with 587 receptions, and he added to his record-breaking career by becoming only the fifth tight end ever to make 600 career catches during the 2012 season.
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