When you think of NFL greatness, names like Joe Montana, Jerry Rice, Jim Brown and Walter Peyton inevitably spring to mind. In fact, there are dozens upon dozens of great NFL players that easily roll off the tongue following a question like that. Unfortunately though, for every easy name that springs to mind, there are two other names of great players that fail to get mentioned for a multitude of potential reasons. Whether it's the era they played in or that they weren't lining up at the most 'glamorous' positions, some names inevitably slip through the cracks.
Such a fate could happen to the greatest tight end of all time, Atlanta Falcons' star Tony Gonzalez. If it does, it would be a horrible tragedy.
Upon Atlanta's 28-24 loss to the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday, Gonzalez told reporters that this would 'probably' be his last season. While not definite yet, just the hint that Gonzalez might be hanging up his cleats is big-time news due to the impact the man had on the position he played, the game he played it for, and for fantasy football owners throughout his entire career.
"It's probably the last time I'm going to wear that uniform," Gonzalez said. "I didn't want to take it off, to tell you the truth. All good things come to an end, and like I said all season long, this is probably my last one. What an unbelievable ride."
Drafted 13th overall by the Kansas City Chiefs in 1997, Gonzalez ends his career second on the receptions list with 1,242. Easily the most decorated tight end in league history, Gonzalez ranked first at his position in touchdowns and sixth overall with 103. Yardage wise he has 14,268, making him seventh of all time — all of these numbers coming from the tight end position; a position that was primarily used as an extra lineman until Gonzalez revolutionized it with his soft hands, speed and overall skill.
After the game on Sunday, the 36 year old Gonzalez said that he plans to discuss his future with his family before making any permanent decisions on retirement.
Throughout his career, Gonzalez has made 13 Pro Bowl's, including three out of his last four with the Falcons. While he has proved pivotal to many fantasy championships over the years, the one accomplishment that has eluded him is winning a Super Bowl ring. That being said, he isn't going to let that chase keep him from retiring if the time is truly right.
"I'm not going to cry about it," Gonzalez said after the conclusion of his 16th season. "I walk away with the satisfaction I left everything, absolutely everything, every time I was on the field.
"I wish it would have culminated with the Super Bowl, but it didn't."
Thanks to Gonzalez, the tight end position is being seen as a pivotal one for both NFL teams and fantasy owners as squads scramble to find the next Tony Gonzalez. If this is his last go-around, then he should be remembered by all as one of the greatest of all time.
James LeBeau is a contributor for CraveOnline Sports. You can follow him on Twitter @JleBeau76 or subscribe on Facebook.com/CraveOnlineSports.
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