Gonzalez Prepares To Suit Up For His Final Act
Sunday will not only be the final chance for the Atlanta Falcons to end the season on a high note while getting revenge on the Carolina Panthers at the Georgia Dome. More than likely, this will also be the last hurrah for future Hall of Fame TE Tony Gonzalez. According to an October article from Sports Illustrated’s Audibles, Gonzalez is certain that this year will definitely be his last one. The tight end made a similar announcement on NFL AM in July.
I did not blame Gonzalez for coming back for one last shot. With WRs Julio Jones and Roddy White, QB Matt Ryan and newly acquired RB Steven Jackson, Gonzalez was looking forward to the Falcons making another run for a Super Bowl. Sadly, it was not meant to be this season, as the team struggled with the injury bug, a suspect defense and a horrendous rushing attack.
Even if the Falcons do not win their last game, it would still be awesome if Gonzalez scores at least one more touchdown before he hangs up the pads.
Gonzalez forever transformed the tight end position and was one of the first to play the position that had the leaping abilities of a basketball player. Gonzalez used these leaping abilities to amass 111 touchdowns so far in his career. Two games ago, he became the fifth receiver to eclipse the 15,000 yard mark. Along the way, Gonzalez also went to the Pro Bowl 13 times (tied for second overall), appeared on the NFL 2000s All-Decade team and holds several NFL records. These include:
- First TE to reach 15,000 receiving yards
- Career receiving yards for a TE (15,008 as of December 16, 2013)
- Career receptions for a TE (1,313 as of December 16, 2013)
- Career TD receptions for a TE (110 as of December 16, 2013)
- Most seasons with 1,000-plus receiving yards by a TE (4)
- Most consecutive seasons with two-plus TD receptions (17) - 1997-2013
- Most consecutive seasons with 70-plus receptions (11) - 2003-2013
- Most seasons with 70-plus receptions (14) - 1999-2001, 2003-2013
- Most consecutive seasons with 600-plus yards receiving (16) - 1998-2013
- Most consecutive starts by a TE (120)
Gonzalez is most remembered in Atlanta as the one of the final pieces to a championship-caliber team. During his time there, the offense reached new heights, as he became one of the focal points. Gonzalez finally played in a playoff game in 2010, and two years later, was one game away from a Super Bowl appearance. And though he is closer to his forties, he is still putting up impressive stats, averaging 826.2 yards per season. Gonzalez also caught 35 TD passes in five years with the Falcons. In this season alone, he caught 79 passes for 803 yards so far while crossing the goal line eight times. Now that is what I consider to be another Pro Bowl season by the future Hall of Famer.
Gonzalez is not just a revolutionary tight end and perennial Pro Bowler. Fans will also miss his professionalism and contributions to the community, whether through saving lives or pushing for alternative and all-natural sports nutrition through his company, All Pro Science. In fact, he was recently placed in the PETA Hall of Fame for Animals for his “Rather Go Naked Than Wear Fur” ads and paving the way for more professional athletes to support animal rights.
To me, Gonzalez is the ultimate Falcon not only because of his consistent production on the field - he epitomizes owner Arthur Blank’s commitment to stewardship and good citizenship. In an era where star players often appear in the news for the wrong reasons, we never hear his name being called when it comes to misconduct off the field. Gonzalez does not complain when things do not go his way. As I can recall, he only talks about three things in interviews: football, family and his business/philanthropy ventures. I wish the NFL had more players like Tony Gonzalez - that would offset any of the issues with the player conduct policy.
The football world, especially the Falcons and the Kansas City Chiefs (his previous team) will miss him. But do not expect him to completely disappear from the spotlight. I am sure Gonzalez will be heavily involved with philanthropy and animal rights activism.
Perhaps he will make a return to football glory as early as 2018, when he gets elected into the Pro Football Hall of Fame on the first ballot.