Antonio Gates reports how Nick Saban helped inspire the National Football League career

Antonio Gates reports how Nick Saban helped inspire the National Football League career”

"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", he said in a statement.

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. I want to thank the Chargers organization, the National Football League, Dean Spanos and the Spanos family for the opportunity to live out a dream and play the game I love.

Gates said that he will remain with the Chargers just in a different capacity.

Football - and all sports - should have more cases exactly like Gates. He was named to eight Pro Bowls, made three First Team All-Pro teams and broke the all-time touchdown record for tight ends. Simply put, he's one of the best tight ends to have ever played the game.

Gates, who hasn't played this season, will join Chargers' front office as a legend ambassador.

It includes quarterbacks Philip Rivers and Drew Brees, running back Melvin Gordon, defensive end Melvin Ingram, safety Eric Weddle and former players Shawne Merriman and LaDainian Tomlinson, among others.

A decade and a half later, Gates concluded his career with a postseason touchdown on his final reception. Obviously, Gates' longevity and ability to stay healthy - something Gronk's career lacked - played a huge role in that.

Gates, 39, appeared in his final game January 13, 2019, the day the Chargers lost 41-28 at frigid New England in the divisional round of the AFC playoffs. He is the franchise leader in receptions (955) and receives shipyards (11,841) and touchdowns.

Thanks to his personal accomplishments, Gates will certainly be a Hall of Fame candidate although it remains to be seen whether or not his efforts will not just be recognized but rewarded as well. Who would've thought that many years later we would have the most touchdowns ever between a quarterback and tight end? He not only did one thing well, he did everything well. But it wasn't until I had the privilege of coaching him that I saw his most important skill: leadership. His teammates always were seeking his guidance. He originally went to MI to play soccer and basketball, but left when Nick Saban just wanted him to play soccer.

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