Opening Gates to the NFL
Anyone who followed Kent State's run to the NCAA tournament's "Elite Eight" two years ago will remember Antonio Gates. The 6-foot-5, 250-pound power forward gained national attention as one of the hidden gems of college basketball.
Now, several NFL teams think he could turn into a gem as a pro tight end.
Browns tight ends coach Steve Hagen, San Diego Chargers tight ends coach Tim Brewster and representatives of the Indianapolis Colts and Philadelphia Eagles were at Kent State Monday afternoon to work out Gates.
Despite not playing football for more than four years, Gates could end up as a surprise second-day draft pick.
An ankle injury suffered during last week's Portsmouth Invitational Basketball Tournament kept Gates from running his best times Monday, but last week he ran the 40-yard dash in 4.64 on a surface one scout said was very similar to the combine in Indianapolis. He also boasted a 43-inch vertical.
Where Gates wowed the coaches and scouts was his innate pass-catching ability.
"He has all the qualities you look for in a tight end," said Brewster. "His opportunity in basketball is probably less than great because of his height, but you put his skills into football and he becomes a marquee kind of athlete.
"Antonio has a chance in the right situation to be a very good pro. What is critical to him, if he makes the commitment to football, he has to get with the right team and the right system that is going to utilize him as an athlete and not try to make him into a one-dimensional blocking tight end. That's not going to enhance his skills. The best thing this kid has going is his ability to be an athlete, run, catch, stretch the field and really bring a nice competitive nature to the team."
Gates was a top recruit of Nick Saban at Michigan State in 1999, but ended up transferring to play basketball.
According to Brewster, he hasn't lost much in more than four years away from the football field.
"Antonio has some quick-twitch explosiveness," Brewster said. "Obviously in basketball, he was a very quick jumper. He shows some things athletically and is very natural with his hands.
"His hand-eye coordination is outstanding. He really sees the ball well into his hands. These are things he does very, very easily. Where a lot of guys struggle and sometimes it is more of a fight, he does it naturally. He is not in great shape right now (after the ankle injury) ... but once he gets into shape and completely turns his mind set to football, we have a chance to have something here. He is a very interesting guy."
While Gates didn't run his best times Monday, Brewster said "he did nothing to harm himself. I wish you'd tell everybody in the NFL that the Chargers thought he was horrible."
Hagen stood on the sideline very quietly while watching the workout, but was clearly impressed with the strength and ability to react Gates demonstrated in pass protection while working one-on-one against Auburn defensive lineman Dante Booker.
Booker also worked out Monday. The 6-foot-4, 277-pound Akron native impressed scouts with a sub-4.7 time in the 40-yard dash.
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