When you hear the name Antonio Gates, what comes to mind? Football. Basketball. Future Hall of Famer.
Gates is a dad to four kids, and this Father's Day is extra special as it falls on his birthday.
As he is about to embark on his 15th season in the NFL, Gates admits it isn't easy being a dad while playing in the league. Much like game planning for a new opponent each week, the balancing act of fatherhood and football is a challenge.
"It's very difficult because of the demands of this profession," Gates said. "It makes it tough. But, I'm a firm believer in having to find a way to balance it all out. That's what good dads do. But it's very tough. It's one thing to be on a team, but it's another when you're trying to be the pinnacle of what you do. It presents a whole different dynamic and challenge."
Just like honing his craft on the field, Gates has figured out how to find a balance with his wife Sasha and their kids. With hours spent away practicing or on the road, he and Sasha have made a pact to make time in their schedules for each other, and their kids.
"You have to find ways to make time for your family when the time presents itself. I structure it. To me, structure is a form in my opinion that works. In anything you do or in any relationship you have (it works). Certain nights we'll do things with the kids. Friday nights are movie nights. But for the most part, one day of the week we have dinner night and movie night. If we're tired, we'll do something else. We have to carve out one day at a time."
As for what you can find playing in the Gates' family household?
"Our house is babies-first and kid-friendly in the daytime. But I am so sick of hearing baby songs! When they come on, I know them all now! But then at night, my wife and I get to watch what we like. Breaking Bad was a big deal in our house. We would watch like eight episodes in a row!"
One of the biggest joys in Gates' life is getting to come home and see his kids. With the Bolts he may be known as Gatesy, but at home, he's daddy.
"They make it really easy to come home! Very, very easy. That's what it's about. When I come home, the 'daddy' word is used excessively. It makes you feel good about what you do and the things you accomplish when you're gone. But it definitely makes you warm when you come home."
While he admits he's missed important days with his kids, he doesn't have regrets as everything he does, he does for them. He hopes that one day, they'll appreciate the man he is off the field just as Chargers fans adore the player he is on it.
"Hopefully when it's all said and done, they'll forgive me! But also, they'll understand that when you have a family, you have to support your family; that's my duty."