Cal Football Great Tony Gonzalez Should be First-Ballot Hall of Famer

26 Oct 1996: Tight end Tony Gonzalez of the University of California during the Cal Golden Bears 38-29 loss to UCLA at Memorial Stadium in Berkeley, California. Mandatory Credit: Otto Greule Jr. /Allsport
26 Oct 1996: Tight end Tony Gonzalez of the University of California during the Cal Golden Bears 38-29 loss to UCLA at Memorial Stadium in Berkeley, California. Mandatory Credit: Otto Greule Jr. /Allsport /

Tony Gonzalez, NFL legend and product of the Cal football team, is eligible for the Hall of Fame for the first time, and he should be in immediately.

Tony Gonzalez, former Cal football star turned NFL legend at tight end, is one of 25 semifinalists for the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and he should get in on his first attempt.

Gonzalez was a two-sport athlete at Cal before going into the NFL. He played three seasons of both football and basketball in Berkeley, and he was a consensus All-American in football in 1996 as a junior. That year, when he was also first-team All-Pac-10, Gonzalez had 44 catches for 699 yards and five touchdowns.

Gonzalez chose to focus on football professionally, and it sure seems like the right decision. He entered the NFL draft after his junior season, and the Kansas City Chiefs moved up five spots to draft Gonzalez 13th overall. He wasted no time in becoming a crucial part of the Chiefs’ success.

In his rookie season, Gonzalez earned a place on the NFL All-Rookie Team, catching 33 passes for 368 yards and a pair of touchdowns. That was just the beginning.

Gonzalez spent 12 seasons with the Chiefs, and was a Pro Bowler in each of his final 10 years with the club. In 2004, he caught a franchise-record 102 passes, which led the NFL and was the first 100-plus reception season in team history (it still ranks as the lone 100-catch season for Kansas City). He went over 1,000 yards four times, and caught 10 or more touchdowns three times.

He ended his tenure with Kansas City as the franchise’s all-time leader with 916 receptions, 10,940 receiving yards, and 76 touchdowns.

Before the 2009 season, Gonzalez was traded to the Falcons, where he continued to be a prolific receiver for his final five seasons in the NFL. He made 409 catches for 4,187 yards and 35 touchdowns in Atlanta, earning four more Pro Bowl nods.

Despite spending just five seasons in Atlanta, he still ranks fifth in franchise history with 409 catches, tied for sixth with 35 touchdowns, and ninth with 4,187 yards.

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Gonzalez is not only the most prolific tight end in NFL history, but he’s one of the most prolific players regardless of position. He currently stands as the league’s all-time leader in catches by a tight end at 1,325, a total that ranks second only to the great Jerry Rice (1,549 catches). Gonzalez’s 15,127 receiving yards are the most by a tight end, and sixth-most in the NFL history.

At the time of his retirement, he was the career leader in touchdowns by a tight end, but he has since been passed by the Chargers’ Antonio Gates.  His 14 Pro Bowl selections are also tied for a record.

Gonzalez was extremely durable throughout his entire career. Out of 272 possible regular season games, Gonzalez played in 270 of them. He missed one game in 1999, then another in 2006. He was also as sure-handed as it got. He fumbled five times in his first three seasons, but from the 2000 season on, Gonzalez fumbled just once in 14 years.

As far as Cal Bears go, Gonzalez is one of the best to play in the NFL. He’s the leader among former Golden Bears in catches, receiving yards, and receiving touchdowns, but he’s also at the top of the list for games played (270) and total touchdowns (111). When all is said and done, very few former Bears provides competition to Gonzalez.

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Gonzalez is one of the best to ever take the field, and was the best at his position. In his first year of eligibility, there’s no reason he shouldn’t have a bust in Canton, Ohio very soon.