Gonzalez Already Hall of Fame Candidate

With the 13th pick in the 1997 draft, the Kansas City Chiefs selected Tony Gonzalez from the University of California. Not only a standout football player, Gonzalez was the starting power forward for a talented Bears basketball team, also. Since entering the NFL Gonzalez has used his superior talents and basketball experience to redefine the tight end position.

If Tony Gonzalez retired today, he would leave behind a Hall of Fame career, although he's played in only eight NFL seasons. He is already fourth on the all time list for yardage at the tight end position, and third on the list in catches. Gonzalez is also second on the all time list in touchdowns. Last season, Gonzalez set the record for catches in a season, registering 102 grabs.

After eight seasons, Gonzalez is on pace to break most major records for tight ends. His 6,905 yards outpaces vaunted Hall of Fame tight ends like Ozzie Newsome, Kellen Winslow, and even Shannon Sharpe, considered by many to be the gold standard for tight ends. No other tight end, at the eight year mark has gained as many yards, or scored as many touchdowns.

Tony Gonzalez is also recognized by the rest of the league, going to six Pro Bowls. Opposing players and coaches regularly acknowledge his game breaking ability, design complicated defensive schemes to slow him down.

Another interesting aspect of Gonzalez's success is how he has changed the tight end position and how it is perceived. Teams now are looking for the next Tony Gonzalez. Scouts are watching tapes of college basketball players, checking out athletic power forwards with soft hands.

The NFL's darling tight end right now, Antonio Gates of the San Diego Chargers, had little actual football experience. That is the mark of a transcendent player. When a player becomes a prototype, like Gonzalez has, he has become a special player, a player for the ages.

Shannon Sharpe, considered by many to be the gold standard for NFL tight ends, is the all time yardage leader with 10,060 total receiving yards. Gonzalez would have to average just over 600 yards for the next five years to eclipse that mark. At 28 years old, barring injury, Gonzalez should be able to reach the record.

Even if Gonzalez retired today, he has done enough in his career to warrant a spot in Canton, Ohio. Kansas City hasn't had much to cheer about the last few years, but the Chief faithful have been able to watch a special career unfold. So even in the face of broken Super Bowl dreams, right under our own noses, a player is leaving an indelible mark on the NFL. Pay attention. Players like him don't come along every day.

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