Tight end Tony Gonzalez might have officially announced his retirement as an Atlanta Falcon after Sunday’s game, but to Chiefs chairman and CEO Clark Hunt, he’ll always be a member of the Chiefs.
By JEFF ROSEN
The Kansas City Star
“On behalf of the entire Chiefs family, I want to congratulate Tony on an incredible career,” Hunt said Monday in a statement issued by the Chiefs. “What he was able to accomplish during his time in the NFL is truly remarkable, and I have no doubt that Tony is a first-ballot Hall of Famer.”
Gonzalez was traded to the Atlanta Falcons on April 23, 2009, but not before he’d become a long-beloved figure here.
“We were very blessed to have him in a Chiefs uniform for 12 seasons,” Hunt said, “and his contributions on and off the field were extraordinary and will never be forgotten. I want to thank Tony for his time in Kansas City and wish him the best of luck in his future endeavors. He will always be considered a part of the Chiefs family.”
Gonzalez spent 17 seasons in the NFL, rewriting the job description for the position and ushering in a new breed of uber-athletic pass-catchers. At 6-5 and 247 pounds, Gonzalez played Pac 10 basketball at Cal and brought a hoops star’s skill-set to Arrowhead Stadium when he was drafted by the Chiefs 13th overall in 1997.
“It’s time for me to go into the next stage of life just like everybody else,” Gonzalez told reporters Sunday. “Nobody’s immune to this, and the way I’ve been able to go out on my own terms, it’s a blessing. And like I said, I have no regrets.”
More than 40 family members were on hand for his final game. At halftime, Falcons owner Arthur Blank presented him with a commemorative helmet — half Falcons, half Chiefs — and the Georgia Dome video board showed highlights of his career.
It was emotional stuff for Gonzalez.
“It was just snapping in and out and trying to control those emotions because they were running through me today — everything,” Gonzalez said. “I felt like crying at times, and then the game comes up and you’re all intense, trying to go out there and do what I’ve been doing for the last 17 years.”
A 13-time Pro Bowler who originally hailed from Huntington Beach, Calif., he holds NFL career records for tight ends with 1,325 catches, 15,127 yards, 111 receiving TDs and 31 hundred-yard receiving games. He caught 916 passes for 10,940 yards with 76 receiving TDs and 26 hundred-yard games with the Chiefs — still the best totals in franchise history.
Gonzalez played in 270 regular-season games, racking up 254 starts. Appearing in 188 games for Kansas City, only guard Will Shields (224 games), kicker Nick Lowery (212) and punter Jerrel Wilson (203) saw more action as Chiefs.
But here’s the thing: Few tight ends in the game had as productive a year as Gonzalez did in 2013. He appeared in all 16 games for Atlanta, catching 83 passes for 859 yards and eight touchdowns, even as the Falcons’ offense dealt with the crippling loss of star receiver Julio Jones and defenses were able to key on him.
There seems to be more left in Gonzalez’s tank, but taken at his word, this is it for the future Hall of Famer.
Gonzalez won the Derrick Thomas Award as the Chiefs MVP in 2008 and the Mack Lee Hill Award as a rookie in 1997. He career in Kansas City includes a franchise-record 10,954 yards from scrimmage.
Tony Gonzalez year by year
Tony Gonzalez holds every key career record for tight ends, and he ranks among the career NFL leaders for all receivers:
Receiving yards (15,127)
Receiving touchdowns (111)
Career starts (253)