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Tallying Up the Final Numbers for Tony Gonzalez's Epic Hall of Fame Career

Chris RolingFeatured ColumnistJanuary 20, 2013

Tallying Up the Final Numbers for Tony Gonzalez's Epic Hall of Fame Career

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    Atlanta Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez may have walked off an NFL field for the last time the Falcons 28-24 loss in the NFC Championship by the San Francisco 49ers, an 8-catch, 78-yard, one touchdown performance to cap off his memorable Hall of Fame Career. 

    Gonzalez told the media before the season began that he was 95 percent sure this season would be his last and, if that is the case, what a ride it has been. 

    After entering the NFL in 1997 with the Kansas City Chiefs, the first-round pick out of California went on an historic 16-year tear that would change the way the game and standards for the tight end position forever.

    Let's take a look at Gonzalez's final numbers and some of his memorable moments now that his epic NFL career has all but concluded. 

Career Statistics

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    Throughout his 16-year NFL journey with the Chiefs and Falcons, Tony Gonzalez broke a multitude of records and set a new precedent for production among tight ends. 

    Overall, Gonzalez caught 1,242 passes over the course of his career, which he turned into 14,268 yards (an outstanding  11.5 yards per catch) and 103 touchdowns.

    Perhaps the most starting number of Gonzalez's career is one that helped him redefine the tight end position. Of his 1,200-plus receptions, exactly 808 went for first downs.

    A tight end had been historically known as the safety-blanket for quarterbacks when Gonzalez entered the league but, over the course of his career, Gonzalez showed that a tight end can become a legitimate receiving threat and top option as a pass catcher.

Major Awards

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    As the statistics indicate, Gonzalez is the most productive at his position to ever play the game, which has in turned earned him a jaw-dropping number of awards over the course of his career. 

    In 16 years, Gonzalez was named to 13 Pro Bowls. In 10 of those years, he was named to the All-Pro Team. In the Pro Bowl, he is the all-time leader in receptions with 48 and has scored six touchdowns, also a Pro-Bowl record. 

    Gonzalez's list of impressive awards does not end there. He was deservedly named to the NFL 2000's All-Decade Team for his exemplary play over the course of the decade. It makes perfect sense considering, since 1999, he has never caught less than 70 passes in a season and had a stretch of eight 900-plus yards in nine years. 

    In 2000 and 2003, Gonzalez was also named the NFL Alumni Tight End of the Year, which recognizes him for his vast amount of community work.  

Records

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    Tony Gonzalez is the most prolific player to ever grace the tight end position and the record books serve to reinforce that notion. 

    Gonzalez holds the career receiving yards record for a tight end with 14,268. His receptions number of 1,242 is also the best ever at the position. Finally, his 103 career touchdowns is also the best ever for an NFL tight end. 

    The records do not stop there. Gonzalez put together four seasons with 1,000 or more (two seasons of 1,200-plus) receiving yards, also a record for the position. He also holds the honor of stringing together the longest streak of seasons with 60 or more receptions, which he did 14 years in a row. 

    Gonzalez also put together 13 seasons with 70 or more receptions, tying him with another player who fills pages of the record books: Jerry Rice. 

    He also holds the record for consecutive starts by a tight end at 120. Finally, he has the second-highest reception count of all-time at any position in NFL history. 

The Chiefs Trade Gonzalez to the Falcons

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    Tony Gonzalez was drafted with the No. 13 overall pick in the 1997 NFL draft by the Kansas City Chiefs. He would play 12 seasons with the team before asking for a trade to a playoff team, as the Chiefs were struggling and he was then 33 years-old. 

    The Chiefs honored his request by trading Gonzalez to the Atlanta Falcons for a second-round pick during the 2010 NFL Draft. 

    It was a monumental moment for Gonzalez, who loved Kansas City and its fans, but he wanted to contend for something special (h/t ESPN):

    "It's somewhat bittersweet," Gonzalez told FoxSports.com. "I love Kansas City. I grew up in Kansas City. The city means a lot to me. I got there when I turned 21. It will be sad to leave a city I love. But I'm looking forward to making a Super Bowl run in Atlanta every year for the next three or four years."

    Gonzalez made the most of his time in Atlanta, but much credit must be given to a Chiefs organization that gave its franchise player his wish. 

Gonzalez Breaks a Multitude of Records in His First Game with the Falcons

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    In September 2009 the Atlanta Falcons defeated the Miami Dolphins 19-7 in what was Tony Gonzalez's first game with the team after being traded. 

    Gonzalez made the most of his debut, breaking several records on the way to victory. 

    He would catch five passes for 73 yards and a touchdown that day. His 20-yard touchdown reception late in the third quarter allowed him to reach the 11,000-yard mark, making him the first at the position to do so and just the 21st player in NFL history. 

    A debut with a new team is always a big deal for any player, but Gonzalez announced his arrival in a big way against the Dolphins. 

Gonzalez Wins His First Playoff Game

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    Over the course of his 16 years in the league, Tony Gonzalez had never won a playoff game. Part of this was due to the ineptitude of the Kansas City Chiefs for 12 years, but another factor was the letdown the Atlanta Falcons had been during his first two seasons with the team. 

    Gonzalez would finally get his his first playoff victory in 2012 when the Falcons defeated the Seattle Seahawks in the NFC Divisional Round 30-28. 

    During the game, Gonzalez caught six passes for 51 yards and a touchdown. He was a key element in the victory, hauling in a 19-yard at Seattle's 31-yardline to set up the game-winning field goal attempt.

    As great as his career was, the lack of a playoff win would have always followed Gonzalez. The win over the Seahawks was one of the most important moments in his career. 

Gonzalez Potentially Plays His Last Game in the NFL

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    Tony Gonzalez won the first playoff game of his career, which subsequently led him to what was possibly his last game in the NFL in the NFC Championship the next week against the San Francisco 49ers. 

    The Falcons would end up losing the game 28-24, but it was not without exceptional output from Gonzalez. He caught eight passes for 78 yards and a touchdown in the losing effort. 

    It was not the preferred way of ending his career, as Gonzalez joined the Falcons in the first place for a shot at a Super Bowl Ting. Perhaps the taste of getting so close will encourage him to come back for one more try. 

    If not, it was a fittingly stellar performance by one of the all-time greats at his position.

Lasting Legacy

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    Tony Gonzalez had an historic career for a tight end. More importantly, he revolutionized the position over the 16 years of his career

    Gonzalez was a two-sport athlete leading up to his NFL career, the other sport being basketball. At 6'5" and 245 pounds, this made perfect sense. 

    His size was an ideal fit for the tight end position, as it had always simply acted as a safety outlet for quarterbacks. Gonzalez changed that in a hurry. 

    Today's NFL is littered with offenses that run through tight ends who stand at 6'4" or higher. Successful schemes like the one the New England Patriots utilize are a testament to the evolution of the position first sparked by Gonzalez. 

    Gonzalez had a successful career in terms of statistics on his way to the Hall of Fame, but impact on the league goes beyond just numbers, as his record-breaking career served to transform the position of tight end.

     

    Follow me on Twitter for more NFL news and analysis. 

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