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Antonio Gates Reflects on Chargers Hall of Fame Induction


One of the Bolts all-time greats officially took his place in the Chargers Hall of Fame this weekend.

Legendary tight end Antonio Gates became the 41st member to join the club during a halftime ceremony at Sunday's game.

It was only a matter of when for the Chargers tight end, who finished his 16-year career in the powder blue tallying 955 receptions for 11,841 yards — both totals that rank first in Chargers history.

But it is Gates' touchdown figures that stand out the most, as his 116 touchdown receptions are the most ever by a tight end in NFL history and slot in as the seventh-most touchdown catches by any player ever.

Gates was welcomed into the historic Bolts group by former teammate LaDainian Tomlinson, a Pro Football Hall of Famer and a member of the Chargers Hall of Fame.

It was an emotional day for Gates to share alongside his family — and a chance for him to get to say thank you to everyone who helped him throughout his Hall of Fame career.

"So many emotions run through your brain," Gates said following the halftime ceremony. "I think the reality of it is that I see so many people who have been through the grind with me. The countless support over the years. I said this earlier, it's almost like the roles reversed in a crazy kind of way.

"Although you are the one that's receiving all of the praise and honor, it feels like it's your turn to thank the ones who have helped you flourish to that level," Gates continued. "That's kind of how it felt. When I see so many guys and they've meant so much to me, whether or not they've played a role — major or minor. It was just almost — I wanted to say something else, but I felt like it was my turn to thank those people.

"God blessed me with ability, but those guys were that steel sharpening steel term that got me to this point. It's crazy because the roles kind of reversed," Gates added. "Everybody is talking about me, but I'm like, 'Wait, I need to thank this dude. Oh man! I need to thank this dude over here, too.' It's just a great, great time. Great experience. I'm just happy to be part of something as prestigious as that, being able to go into the Hall of Fame for this franchise."

Get an inside look as the Chargers induct legendary tight end Antonio Gates as the 41st member the Chargers Hall of Fame at halftime of the team's Week 14 game against the Broncos at SoFi Stadium

Many former Chargers players who shared the locker room with Gates were on hand for the halftime ceremony.

It was a chance for the iconic tight end to reconnect with old teammates and relive the camaraderie that makes being in the NFL special to him.

"It's always great to rekindle old relationships, right? Old games. Old memories," Gates said. "I think, when it was all said and done, that's what you miss the most about the game. You miss the laughter, the joking and the fun. Obviously, the game, the battles that we've had at practice.

"Now, they all came back for this special occasion. That's what you talk about," Gates later added. "Unfortunately, we would always hear that when we were playing. I'm saying the same thing — you ask guys, 'What do you miss the most?' The camaraderie. The connection. The laughing. The chemistry. That's the most important thing because those are the memories that carry you when you're done playing the game of football."

And among those number of teammates that showed up to celebrate alongside him was quarterback Philip Rivers — a man who threw the Bolts legend 89 of his 116 touchdowns.

Rivers visited SoFi Stadium for the first time Sunday in honor of Gates going into the Chargers Hall of Fame. Seeing Rivers join the rest of his former Chargers teammates for his special day meant a lot for Gates, as he appreciated every person who made an impact on him and vice versa.

"That was amazing. You're talking about a guy that I've been through it all with from really my second year on," Gates said about Rivers. "Although he didn't play my second and third year, he was my locker neighbor the whole time. We already had built a relationship prior to him even getting on the field. It speaks volumes about what he feels about me.

"I think you never truly know what anyone feels about you until it's time. To see him and all of the other guys show up, you never really know how you impact the guys," Gates added. "To see all of these different guys show up, it speaks volumes in terms of how they feel about me. I appreciate it. I couldn't be more excited or joyful at this point to see just about every guy that I've played with show up for this ceremony."

The next stop for one of the all-time greats at his position? Canton, Ohio, less than an hour from where Gates became a basketball star at Kent State.

Gates is one of 25 semifinalists for the Pro Football Hall of Fame's Class of 2024 and has a good chance to make it in on the first try — a moment he would've never thought of back in college.

While Gates was a star on the hardwood for the Golden Flashes, he would often hear about the Pro Football Hall of Fame, which was less than 30 miles from the Kent State campus. But never did he think he would be this close to being inducted into the prestigious group.

Still Gates, in the midst of the celebrations and emotions following his induction to the Chargers Hall of Fame, remains even keel and soaking in all in the moment — something that helped him throughout his career and get on the doorstep of Canton.

"We would always hear about the Hall of Fame when I was playing college basketball. We would always hear about it, but it just never registered to me that I would even be somewhat close to doing it in that phase," Gates said. "Obviously, basketball was a passion of mine. It never struck me as a thing that I would even consider being a part of. I would hear these speeches consistently over and over when football players were going to the Hall of Fame."

"Like I said, I still haven't wrapped my head around it all. I'm soaking this all in right now," Gates later added. "I will say, through it all, I maintained a certain level of consistency — not to get too high on myself, not to get too low on myself, never looking at the past. Basically, I outlasted people and I did what I needed to do every single year. It led to me having an opportunity to become a Pro Football Hall of Famer."

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