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Antonio Gates Named 2023 Chargers Hall of Fame Inductee

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Antonio Gates, one of the most prolific players to ever compete in the National Football League, will officially be inducted into the Chargers Hall of Fame during the 2023 season, it was announced today. Gates will be the 41st member enshrined into the Chargers Hall of Fame.

The official induction ceremony will take place Sunday, December 10, during halftime of the Chargers-Broncos divisional tilt at SoFi Stadium.

Gates officially announced his retirement from the NFL in January 2020 after spending his entire 16-year career with the Chargers, concluding an historic run with 116 touchdown receptions and 21 multi-touchdown games — both the most by a tight end in NFL history. One of the most clutch receivers to ever play the game, Gates' 39 touchdown receptions on third down are also the most in league history at tight end and tied with Hall of Fame WR Cris Carter for No. 3 overall. Over the course of his career, Gates registered eight seasons with eight-plus receiving touchdowns, the most ever by a tight end and tied for No. 5 all-time.

"As I've said many times now, Antonio is not only one of the greatest Chargers to ever play the game, he's one of the greatest players in NFL history," said Controlling Owner and Chairman of the Board Dean Spanos. "That couldn't be any truer today than it was at the time of his retirement. As the years have passed, and as the game has continued to evolve, it's impossible not to notice the impact Antonio has had on the modern NFL and the way team's utilize tight ends. Just as Kellen Winslow forever changed the position decades earlier, Antonio redefined what it meant to be a tight end in the 21st century. His contributions to our organization, on the field and off, are those of a Hall of Famer. This was, to me, always a mere formality. After we celebrate him at SoFi Stadium this December, I look forward to doing it once again in Canton."

Signed by the Chargers as an undrafted free agent in 2003, Gates joined the Bolts not having played organized football since his senior season at Detroit's Central High School. A standout power forward for the Kent State men's basketball team, he quickly flashed that tantalizing athleticism against Green Bay with the first 100-yard receiving game by a Chargers rookie since 1989.

From the beginning of his career to the end, Gates was a model of consistency on the field and in the community. The franchise's all-time leader in career receptions (955), receiving yards (11,841) and touchdown catches (116) and second all-time in regular season games played (220), off the field Gates history of working on behalf of charitable causes is well documented. Most notably, Gates has been a fervent supporter of the Lupus Foundation of America to honor the memory of his late sister, Pamela. He has also served as the honorary chairman for Shoot to Cure HD for several years in support of the Huntington's Disease Society of America, appeared in the PSA campaign No More in 2014 to help stop domestic violence, played host to the team's annual Shop with a Charger event benefitting homeless, neglected and/or abused children and has worked closely with Promises2Kids to support foster youth.

An eight-time Pro Bowl selection, Gates is a member of five Associated Press All-Pro teams, owns three Sporting News First Team All-Pro selections and is a member of the NFL's All Decade Team (2000-09) as well as the Chargers' 50th Anniversary All-Time Team.

"I love my friend, my teammate, Antonio Gates," said legendary Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers at the time of Gates' retirement. "I am very thankful to have gotten the opportunity to be Antonio's teammate for 15 seasons. I remember like it was yesterday the very first touchdown pass I threw him in Oakland in 2006. We only threw 11 passes that day and he wasn't quite as happy as I was after that TD. Who would of thought that many years later we would have the most touchdowns ever between a quarterback and tight end? I could go on and on about the memories from practice, games, the huddle, the sideline, the subtle in-game glances, the "come on now" as we broke the huddle which meant, "throw me the ball!" He was so hard to cover that we had a "Gates Rule" in the QB room. We would talk through the reads and the plays and they all had a "Gates Rule." It pretty much meant, if he is one-on-one, throw it there.

"Gatesy is as competitive as anybody I have ever been around. No matter what we were doing, he played to win. He would probably tell you; he never even lost an argument. We were also locker mates for 15 seasons. I enjoyed so much the conversations we had about family, life, children, sports, and anything in between. I truly miss those times we would just sit there after practice and just talk and laugh and argue.

"He no doubt is one of the greatest tight ends to ever play the game. He is the master of a pivot 3 and a 7 route. He ran all of the others pretty dang good also. He will be in the HOF in three years, and it's well deserved."

In Gates' second season, the Chargers earned their first of what would become five AFC West titles over the next six seasons. Leading the NFL with 13 touchdowns, a then-record for tight ends, he was voted to his first Pro Bowl and was named First Team All-Pro by The Associated Press. He also became the first Charger with three touchdown catches in a game since Tony Martin in 1997 and the first Bolts' tight end to have a three-touchdown game since Hall of Famer Kellen Winslow in 1983.

In 2005 Gates tied Winslow (1980) for the most receptions (89) in single season by a tight end in Chargers history. His 89 receptions went for 1,101 yards and 10 touchdowns, marking his first 1,000-yard season. He also became just the second tight end in NFL history (Todd Christiansen, 1983) to have a season with 1,100-plus yards and at least 10 touchdowns. His 23 touchdown catches from 2004-05 were the most-ever in a two-year span by an NFL tight end.

The Los Angeles Chargers surprise Antonio Gates as their 2023 Chargers Hall of Fame inductee on Monday, August 14, 2023 at Hoag Performance Center.

In 2006, Gates was named First Team All-Pro by The Associated Press and selected to the Pro Bowl, making it three consecutive seasons for both honors. He was also again named First Team All-Pro by The Sporting News and recognized as All-NFL and All-AFC by the Professional Football Writers of America. Gates posted four games with 100-plus receiving yards and one game with double-digit receptions in 2007. In 2008, he registered 704 receiving yards and eight touchdowns on 60 receptions as well as set postseason career highs with 13 catches for 146 yards. In 2009, he finished with a career-high 1,157 receiving yards and eight touchdowns on 79 catches, marking his second career 1,000-yard season. At the time, the receiving yardage was the 10th-highest output by a tight end in a single season in NFL history. The 14.6 yards-per-reception average led all NFL tight ends.

"What a special football player Antonio Gates was," said former Indianapolis Colts and Denver Broncos Hall of Fame Quarterback Peyton Manning. "Competing against him, I always had a great appreciation for his athletic ability, his route running, and his hands. Nobody ran a better option route, which is when a player goes over the middle and either hooks up, breaks out, or breaks in. It's a three-way go and the defender doesn't know what to do or how to defend it. Nobody ran that better than Antonio Gates."

Gates celebrated one of his best statistical seasons as a Charger in 2014 on the heels of a personal tragedy with his younger sister, Pamela, passing away after a three-year battle with Lupus. Gates missed the entire offseason program to remain close to his family in Detroit. Playing the season in his sister's memory, he posted a record-breaking year. With nine touchdown receptions in the team's first eight games, Gates tied the team record for touchdowns in the first half of a season. Concluding the year with 12 touchdown catches, he tied for the league lead amongst tight ends. Gates finished the season with more than 10,000 career receiving yards, surpassing Hall of Fame wide receiver Lance Alworth as the team's all-time leader in receiving yards while becoming just the fourth tight end in league annals to eclipse that mark.

Gates concluded the 2015 season with 101 career touchdown catches, passing Hall of Fame wide receivers Don Hutson (99), Tim Brown (100) and Steve Largent (100) for sole possession of No. 7 on the all-time touchdown receptions list. He moved past Hall of Fame tight end Shannon Sharpe (10,060) for third all-time in receiving yards among tight ends, finishing the year with 10,644 career receiving yards. In 2016, more records were broken as Gates registered 548 receiving yards and seven touchdowns on 53 catches (10.3 avg.). He posted three-straight games with a touchdown in the middle of the season and closed out the year with back-to-back games with a touchdown grab, ending the season tied with tight end Tony Gonzalez for the most career touchdown catches by a tight end in NFL history (111).

In 2017, Gates opened the season by hauling in a pass from quarterback Philip Rivers during the home opener against Miami to take sole possession of first place among on the all-time touchdowns list among tight ends. The score marked his 85th touchdown reception from Rivers, which at the time was the most by a quarterback-tight end duo in NFL history and tied Hall of Famers Steve Young and Jerry Rice for No. 2 among any quarterback-receiver combination in league annals. The tie did not last long as his 86th touchdown catch from Rivers in the team's second matchup against Kansas City later that season claimed sole possession of No. 2 for any quarterback-receiver combination in league history, trailing only Hall of Famers Peyton Manning and Marvin Harrison (112 TDs). Gates caught touchdown No. 87 from Rivers and the 114th of his career at the Jets on Christmas Eve.

In his final NFL season, Gates caught 28 passes for 333 yards (11.9 avg.) and two touchdowns. The scores marked Nos. 115 and 116 for his career and the 88th and 89th from Rivers. His first touchdown catch of the season made him the oldest tight end in NFL history to haul in a touchdown grab, doing so at 38 years, 104 days. At season's end, he had passed Hall of Fame wide receivers Don Maynard (11,834) and Calvin Johnson (11,619) for No. 28 on the all-time receiving yards list with 11,841 for his career. He moved up the all-time receptions list, passing Hall of Fame wide receiver Andre Reed (951), wide receiver Derrick Mason (943) and Hall of Fame wide receiver Art Monk (940) for sole possession of 17th with 955 career catches. Gates saw action in both Chargers postseason games, posting a playoff team-high nine receptions for 76 yards (8.4 avg.) and a touchdown. The touchdown grab made him the oldest tight end in NFL history with a postseason receiving touchdown (38 years, 209 days) with only Hall of Fame wide receiver Jerry Rice (three occasions) having postseason touchdown catches at an older age. Gates became the team's all-time postseason leader in receiving yards, moving to 540 in his career to pass Hall of Fame wide receiver Charlie Joiner (539) while also moving up the all-time postseason ranks among tight ends in receiving yards to 10th and catches (51) to seventh.

"Antonio Gates was such a great player and, like a number of the great players I've been around, sometimes I don't think people appreciate him because Antonio made everything look so easy," said former Chargers Head Coach Norv Turner. "Things that were really, really, difficult that were tough plays, that were competitive plays, he had that knack or that ability to make it look very routine. It was an amazing quality of his. Obviously, one of the best players I've been able to coach. Antonio was a great player on the field, great person off the field and was really a credit to the organization."

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