Say­onara, Tony Gon­za­lez

The Covington News - - SPORTS -

Last Sun­day, the At­lanta Fal­cons played their last game of a very mis­er­able 2013 sea­son, but this was also the last game of Tony Gon­za­lez’s il­lus­tri­ous Hall of Fame ca­reer.

Gon­za­lez played 17 sea­sons in the Na­tional Foot­ball League. He spent the first 12 years of his ca­reer with the Kansas City Chiefs, where he es­tab­lished him­self as a house­hold name. How­ever, in the 2009 off­sea­son, he made a dif­fi­cult de­ci­sion to leave the Chiefs and de­cided to come to At­lanta, where he spent the fi­nal five years of his ca­reer.

In honor of Gon­za­lez’s ca­reer, the Fal­cons de­cided to make last week “Tony Gon­za­lez Week”. On Dec. 27, I looked on the Fal­cons’ Face­book page and saw where a fea­tured colum­nist wrote, “In honor of No. 88, we have cre­ated the 88 great­est mo­ments of Tony Gon­za­lez’s ca­reer."

When the fi­nal Sun­day of Gon­za­lez’s ca­reer came around, many ex­pected him to be very emo­tional, but sur­pris­ingly, when he ar­rived at the Ge­or­gia Dome he was all smiles.

As I sat in the press box of the Dome on Sun­day, I had the op­por­tu­nity to hear the honor and praise that were given to Tony Gon­za­lez.

Carolina Pan­thers’ coach Ron Rivera ap­proached Gon­za­lez at mid­field about 30 min­utes be­fore game time and said, “You should think about com­ing back next year.”

De­spite the praise, Gon­za­lez replied, “Naw, this is it.”

Pan­thers’ quar­ter­back Cam Newton even re­ferred to Gon­za­lez as “a role model for a lot of peo­ple like me.”

Ac­cord­ing to profoot­bal­ltalk.nbcs­, Pan­thers line­backer Thomas Davis asked Gon­za­lez dur­ing the game: “(Is there) any way pos­si­ble I could get a signed jersey from you?” Gon­za­lez replied, “Yeah. Like, af­ter the sea­son.”

The fawn­ing over Gon­za­lez by his team­mates, his op­po­nents and the league is the ul­ti­mate level of re­spect.

Gon­za­lez has played the role of men­tor to younger guys in the locker room the past few years of his ca­reer, and on Sun­day, I was able to hear a pregame con­ver­sa­tion be­tween Gon­za­lez and team­mate Levine Toilolo.

“I’m gonna be back for the fi­nal game of your ca­reer,” Gon­za­lez said. “How long do you wanna play?” Toilolo replied, “Ten to 12 (years).” It was great to hear Gon­za­lez mo­ti­vat­ing the young­ster to con­tinue to im­prove his game and achieve his goals.

Not will­ing to go out qui­etly, Gon­za­lez con­tin­ued mak­ing his­tory against the Pan­thers. He caught four

passes for 56 yards, which ex­tended his streak to 211 con­sec­u­tive games with a catch, sec­ond all-time to Jerry Rice.

At half­time of Sun­day’s game, the Fal­cons hon­ored Gon­za­lez with a hel­met that on one half had the Kansas City Chiefs’ logo and on the other side, the Fal­cons’ logo. A red car­pet was even rolled out for Gon­za­lez, and when the short cer­e­mony con­cluded, his chil­dren came run­ning down the car­pet to hug their daddy.

It was such a heart­felt mo­ment.

Al­though the Fal­cons failed to get the vic­tory, the last catch of the game was made by Gon­za­lez. He fin­ished his ca­reer with 1,325 catches, 111 touch­downs and 15,127 re­ceiv­ing yards in 270 ca­reer games played.

I’ll say here what I said to Gon­za­lez af­ter the Nov. 10 game against Seat­tle. Thanks, Tony G. Con­grats on a Hall of Fame ca­reer and thanks for show­ing the up-and-com­ers how it should be done.

We can never say it enough, but I’ll say it one fi­nal time for one of the classi­est in­di­vid­u­als to ever step on the grid­iron - thank you Tony Gon­za­lez.

Xavier McKnight

An­thony Banks/The Cov­ing­ton News

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