Former Chargers RB and Pro Football Hall of Famer LaDainian Tomlinson
Teammate from 2003-09
"Antonio, congratulations on retirement. It's finally come. Hanging it up. Man, what an outstanding career you had, and I enjoyed being your teammate. I enjoyed taking the field with you every single game. I knew you were going to do something special every single time we took the field. And guess what, Canton is waiting. I can't wait for you to get that gold jacket. Congratulations."
Chargers QB Philip Rivers
Teammate from 2004-18
"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.
"I love my friend, my teammate, Antonio Gates."
Chargers head coach from 2007-12
"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. 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."
New Orleans Saints QB Drew Brees
Teammate from 2003-05
"Man, unbelievable career. Who would've thought: a young kid from Detroit, Michigan, going to play basketball in college, Michigan State, then onto Kent State, coming to the San Diego Chargers – thanks to Tim Brewster – 2003, putting your hand in the dirt after four or five years of not playing football, who would've thought? Unbelievable career. I feel so fortunate and so blessed to have been your teammate, even if just for a few years, and have just a small part of your amazing career. It was incredible to be a part of, incredible to watch, you always did things the right way. You were such an example for others. I think any guy who comes into the league to play the tight end position has to be looking at you and your story and your journey and using you as that model example. Congratulations. Enjoy retirement. You deserve it."
Former Indianapolis Colts and Denver Broncos QB Peyton Manning
"What a special football player Antonio Gates was. 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. I really enjoyed playing with him in a number of Pro Bowls. Antonio is a great human being and I congratulate him on an awesome career."
Former Chargers LB Shawne Merriman
Teammate from 2005-10
"I want to give a big congratulations to my brother, my former teammate Antonio Gates, on your retirement. I can't believe it's gone by so fast. I'll never forget walking into the locker room as a rookie 2005, walking into your locker, and introducing myself, 'Hey, how you doing? My name is Shawne Merriman. I just got drafted.' And you shaking my hand back and saying, 'Ha! I'm Tone Gates.' It's gone by so fast, and I want to thank you. I'm honored to not only call you family now but also to be able to tell my son that I played with the best tight end who's ever done it. I can't wait to see what you're going to do after football, and also I can't wait to be there at your hall of fame speech. Congratulations, big dog. Love you, man."
Former Chargers DE Marcellus Wiley
Teammate in 2003
"Gates? Are you done? That's it for real? Man. Happy retirement, big dog, from your boy Marcellus Wiley. Saw you as a rookie, I'm sitting there like 'Dang, I thought I had some game. These basketball players sure know how to play football.' I remember those days, man, all the way to now. Hall of Famer. First ballot. No doubt. Now it's time to get some love on this over side in retirement. Come on, brother. We're waiting for you. Have a Hall of Fame career on this side as well. Much love for what you did for the game, your family, your name, for the Chargers. Now let's take this on to the next level. Happy retirement, Gates. From your boy, Marcellus Wiley."
Chargers TE Hunter Henry
Teammate from 2016-18
"I just want to say congrats on an awesome career. You've done a lot for me early in my career. Thanks for taking me under your wing, teaching me everything you know. And it's helped me to this point, and it's going to continue to help me for the rest of my career. I appreciate everything. All the fun times, all the memories, good times, bad times. Everything that you've taught me, I'm going to put into my life and on the football field. I don't know when I'm going to see you next, but I know for sure I'll see you in five years at Canton. Congrats, buddy."
Chargers RB Melvin Gordon
Teammate from 2015-18
"Home Team, it's your boy Mel. It was a sad day knowing you weren't coming back but so happy to have been able to play with you all these years. You watched me grow. People didn't believe in me. You always had my back and was in my corner and couldn't respect you more for it. [You have] been the goat since I was a youngin' – watching you. [Then I] got here – I remember the first game I saw you play; you ran for four touchdowns against Pittsburgh – I think three or four – nothing but canons. That day I knew, firsthand, he truly is the best tight end to ever play in the National Football League. It's been an honor, a pleasure, I missed you this year being around. Your leadership and camaraderie that you bring to the team. Your jokes – one of the funniest guys on the team – definitely miss you. But I just want to say hats off to you for your great career, and I'm just happy that I was able to be part of it."
Chargers CB Casey Hayward
Teammate from 2016-18
"Gates, my guy! I want to tell you congratulations on the great career. One of the best tight ends of all time, one of the best Chargers of all time. I wanted to say good luck in your future and congratulations, man."
Chargers DE Melvin Ingram
Teammate from 2012-18
"Hey, congratulations Gates on the great career. We locked in, man, you know what you mean to me. You took me in as a young rookie when I came in and just showed me the ropes. We've developed a relationship like you're a big brother to me. I just want to say congrats on the career. You did it. You beat the odds. You did something that a lot of people ain't going to get to do and a lot of people couldn't dream of doing, and I just wanted to say congratulations, man. I know I'm going to see you in Canton in five years getting that jacket. You know you the G.O.A.T., Home Team, so with that being said, I'm just trying to follow your footsteps. I'm trying to get me a jacket. So, congrats."
Formers Chargers C Nick Hardwick
Teammate from 2004-14
"Antonio, it was an honor to play with a guy who will forever have his imprints all over the sport. As a teammate, we shared some great laughs and memories. I'll never forget your cool demeanor in the huddle and that big ol' smile. Your thoughtful approach to the game and life has earned the allegiance of all of your former teammates. Congrats on a wildly successful football career. As always, I wish you nothing but the best."
Chargers head coach from 2013-16
"It was truly an honor and privilege to coach Antonio Gates. Antonio is one of the best to ever play the game, and he's a special person. He always helped his teammates both on and off the field. Year in and year out Antonio pushed himself to be the best. If I gave him a day off in training camp, you could find him running his tail off on the treadmill. Rivers to Gates is one of the best tandems in NFL history. I want to thank him for all the memories. Best wishes, Antonio, to you and your family in the next phase of your lives."
Former Chargers S Eric Weddle
Teammate from 2007-15
"Gatesy, what's up man? What a career. Hall of fame. First ballot. Amazing. I think about all the times we had our battles in practice. The long road trips. Playing cards. Playing basketball in the off season. You truly made my career one for the better. Made me compete and made the game easy when Sunday's came around. I hope you enjoy the next step to officially retire. I envy it. I may be coming around the corner real quick. Just wanted to wish you an amazing day. I appreciate your friendship. I appreciate how you always had my back, even as a rookie, and to be able to say that I love you and appreciate everything you've done for me. Enjoy your day. Great things are on the horizon, my friend."