Tony Gonzalez is regarded as the best tight end for the Atlanta Falcons. Tony Gonzalez has scored his 102nd career touchdown reception and no one is surprised. He’s only been doing this for 16 years, yet he’s the all-time greatest NFL tight end I’ve ever seen.

Gonzalez is as productive as he’s ever been at 36 years old. He was catching passes from the tight end position before everyone else was doing it. With players like Jimmy Graham of the New Orleans Saints and Rob Gronkowski of the New England Patriots having such successful seasons, productive pass-catching tight ends have become nearly ubiquitous.

Gonzalez, on the other hand, has been catching balls in the NFL since he was in elementary school. His Hall of Fame record owes as much to his constancy as it does to his output.

Gonzalez has appeared in 250 of his possible 252 career games after being picked in the first round out of Cal by the Kansas City Chiefs. He began 234 of them. He had 1,218 receptions, 14,050 receiving yards, and 101 touchdowns in his spectacular career.

Gonzalez has the second-most receptions in the NFL all-time. This isn’t just true among tight ends. In terms of receptions, the veteran is second only to the famous Jerry Rice, who is widely regarded as the best wide receiver of all time. Only eight men can legitimately claim to have caught 1,000 passes in the NFL. One of them is Gonzalez.

Since 1999, he’s caught 70 or more passes every year and has five or more touchdown receptions in 13 seasons. He’s surpassed 600 yards receiving 15 times, 800 yards 11 times, and 1,000 yards four times. In 2012, the 36-year-old is on track to amass 1,027 yards and nine touchdowns (on 97 catches).

Gonzalez was second among tight ends in targets, receptions, and yards, and fourth in touchdowns. It’s safe to say he’s had the middle of the field to himself for a long time. Gonzalez, if he decides to retire, should be a first-ballot Hall of Famer.


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