PERSONAL: Born June 18, 1980 in Detroit, Michigan led Detroit Central High School to Class A state championship as senior first-team all-state selection in football and basketball.
Gates had several memorable games in 2007. Among those that stood out were games against the Houston Texans and Titans. In October when the Chargers hosted the Texans while wildfires were still smoldering throughout scattered regions of San Diego, Gates caught 49 and 31-yard touchdown catches to lead the Chargers to a 35-10 win. On his second TD catch, Gates went over 4,000 yards in just his 68th career game, making him the third-fastest player in NFL history to get to there. The only two players to do it faster were former Bolt Kellen Winslow (58 games) and former Chicago Bear Mike Ditka (67). Then in December when the Chargers faced the Titans in a regular season game in Nashville’s LP Field, Gates caught a game-tying touchdown pass with nine seconds left in the fourth quarter and then hauled in a key third down pass in overtime to sustain the game-winning drive.
A four-time Pro Bowler and a three-time All-Pro, Gates’ 340 receptions since he came into the league in 2003 are the third most among tight ends. He ranks behind only Kansas City’s Tony Gonzalez and Dallas’ Jason Witten. Gates’ 4,362 yards rank second to Gonzalez, but his 43 touchdown catches lead all tight ends and actually are tied for the fifth-most among all players, including wide receivers.
Off the field, Gates has shown San Diegans that he can be a giver as well as a receiver. For the last several years, Gates has served as the honorary chairman for the Shoot to Cure HD, a speed free-throw shooting event that raises money for the Huntington’s Disease Society of America. He has also served as the host of a holiday event for homeless teens from the San Diego Center for Children, the Clark Teen Center and the Ronald McDonald House.
Gates’ unique route to the NFL is well-chronicled. When he signed with the Chargers in 2003, he had not strapped on shoulder pads since his senior season at Central High School in Detroit. He began his collegiate career at Michigan State under the assumption that he could play both football and basketball. When the school’s football coach relented, Gates decided to focus on hoops and decided it was best to leave the East Lansing campus. An up-and-down start to his basketball career sent Antonio bouncing to three different schools before he finally found a home at Kent State. In two seasons for the Golden Flashes, he helped lead the team to back-to-back conference championships and the Elite Eight in the 2002 NCAA Tournament. Gates left the Kent, Ohio campus as the school’s sixth all-time scorer. Labeled as a classic tweener coming out of college and not likely to be drafted into the NBA, Gates opted to give football another shot and that led to his signing with the Chargers.
In the May 2007 issue of Pro Football Hall of Fame Magazine, Gates was listed as the fourth-best undrafted player in NFL history.
Gates still follows college basketball closely and often participates in pickup games in the open gym at nearby San Diego State. In 2005 he attended his first-ever Final Four, traveling to St. Louis to cheer on Michigan State.
Gates enjoys movies and live comedy shows. Last May, he was invited to New York to tape a commercial with actor Bruce Willis for the movie Die Hard 4. Gates often travels to Los Angeles comedy clubs to watch some of the West Coast’s top comedians. Among his favorites are Mike Epps and Alex Thomas.