Antonio Mitchell Gates, Jr. (born June 18, 1980) is the starting tight end for the San Diego Chargers of the National Football League. He was signed as an undrafted free agent in 2003 after playing college basketball at Kent State University. He attended college at Kent State University his junior and senior years after brief stints at Michigan State University and Eastern Michigan University. He starred at Central High School (Detroit, Michigan) playing both basketball and football.
After his senior season of high school basketball, Gates was named runner-up for the Mr. Basketball of Michigan award to Dane Fife.Originally, Gates enrolled at Michigan State University wanting to play football under then-coach Nick Saban as well as basketball under coach Tom Izzo but upon enrolling Saban wanted him to play only football. Gates then chose to pursue playing basketball by transferring to Eastern Michigan University to play basketball. He played there part of a season, subsequently played at two junior colleges and eventually played two seasons at Kent State University in northeastern Ohio.
As a Golden Flash, Gates played two seasons as power forward. His junior season he averaged 16.0 points, 8.1 rebounds and 2.7 assists per game  His senior season he received Honorable Mention All-American Honors from the Associated Press after averaging 20.6 points, 7.7 rebounds and 4.1 assists per game. His senior season his team won its first regular season Mid-American Conference (MAC) championship in school history after finishing the regular season with a 24-5 overall record with a 17-1 record in the MAC. Gates helped the Golden Flashes win their second consecutive MAC tournament and earn its resulting berth in the 2002 NCAA Men’s Division I Basketball Tournament In the NCAA tournament he gave crucial performances that helped Kent State reach the Elite Eight as a 10 seed by upsetting 7 seed Oklahoma State (69-61), 2 seed Alabama (71-58) and 3 seed Pittsburgh (78-73). He finished with a record of 54-16 in two years of playing.
His jersey number, 44 was retired on Feb 27, 2010 making him just the fourth Golden Flash to receive the honor. His parents names are Vanelia Gates and Henry Gates.
San Diego Chargers
After being told by scouts that he was too much of a “tweener” to make the NBA, Gates (6′4″) arranged a workout in front of NFL scouts. As many as 19 teams were believed to have contacted Gates about a tryout. Gates chose to work out first for the San Diego Chargers. Recognizing his potential, the Chargers immediately signed him to a contract as an undrafted free agent.
After finishing a solid 2003 rookie season in which he caught 24 passes for 389 yards and two scores, he was picked by many experts to have a breakout season in 2004. That year, only his second season in the NFL, Gates became quarterback Drew Brees‘ favorite target, finishing the season with 81 receptions for 964 yards and 13 touchdowns. On December 19, Gates tied the NFL season record for touchdowns by a tight end (13) in a 21–0 win over the Cleveland Browns, and he went on to break that record in an overtime loss to theIndianapolis Colts on December 26. Gates was selected to the 2005 Pro Bowl and caught a TD pass from Colts’ quarterback Peyton Manning to help the AFC to a 38–27 victory. Additionally, Gates was on the receiving end of a 33 yard pass from teammate Drew Brees in a flea-flicker play selected by fans online.
On August 23, 2005, after holding out for a contract extension, Gates inked a six-year deal worth up to $24 million with the San Diego Chargers. Because of his holdout, Gates was suspended for one game–the home opener against the Dallas Cowboys, a loss. Gates went on to have another stellar season, catching 89 passes for 1,101 yards and 10 touchdowns, but the Chargers missed the playoffs by a single win.
With the departure of Drew Brees during the offseason, it was assumed that Gates would suffer a decline in production in 2006, with first-year starter Philip Rivers at the helm. Gates had a relatively quiet start to the season, but he finished the year strongly and ended up with 924 receiving yards and nine touchdowns. He caught two touchdown passes on December 10 against Denver to help the Chargers clinch their division.
Gates said he was leaning toward having surgery to repair a dislocated left big toe that slowed his performance during the NFL 2008 Playoffs, but was undecided on whether to have surgery or not, “There is higher chance I’m going to have surgery”. Gates also pulled out of his 5th Pro Bowl selection because of his injuries alongside his teammate LaDainian Tomlinson. Gates finished the season with 60 receptions for 704 yards and eight touchdowns.
On February 23, 2008, Gates said he would have foot surgery to fix the injury that has hurt him in the final part of the season. He would face a 4–6 month recovery time. He seemed questionable for Week 1 and even sounded worried about his status for the opening day of the 2008 season, however, he ended up playing every game despite complaints that his toe was bothering him during the first half of the season.
For the 2009 NFL regular season, Gates caught 79 passes for 1,157 yards and eight touchdowns. His 1,157 receiving yards is his career high.
Gates began the 2010 season by signing a lucrative 5-year $36 million contract with $20 million guaranteed. In the first nine games of the 2010 season, he had 40 receptions and 9 touchdowns. Foot injuries slowed the second half of his season. He was invited to the 2011 Pro Bowl, the seventh consecutive year he was chosen as the AFC starter.
Records and awards
- On October 3, 2010, Gates became the seventh tight end with 500 career receptions.
- In 2005 and 2006, Antonio Gates was selected as the NFL’s All-Pro tight end.