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Gates enjoying second Pro Bowl trip

Discussion in 'Latest Chargers News & Headlines' started by robdog, Feb 9, 2006.

  1. robdog

    robdog Code Monkey Staff Member Administrator

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    Source: <a target="_blank" href="http://www.chargers.com/news/headline_detail.cfm?news_key=2541">Chargers.com</a>

    By Scott Yoffe

    <img width="222" height="192" align="left" title="Antonio Gates in the Pro Bowl" alt="Antonio Gates in the Pro Bowl" id="image1917" src="http://bolttalk.com/wp-content/uploads/2006/02/0030.jpg" />

    HONOLULU - Antonio Gates is all smiles this week as he goes through his preparations for the 2006 Pro Bowl this Sunday at Aloha Stadium. The NFL's leading tight end this season with 89 catches for 1,101 yards and 10 touchdowns, Gates was the NFL's fifth-highest vote-getter for the all-star classic after the fan ballots were totaled, garnering more than 940,000 votes. He spoke about his excitement of spending another week with his fellow all stars at the J.W. Marriot Resort in Kapolei, Hawaii.

    "It's wonderful," beamed Gates. "I'm out here around the best players in the world. I'm able to compete with them and obviously I've got some teammates out here and this is a lot of fun. You see people all year long and now you get a chance to play with them instead of play against them. I see the respect of my peers and the players that are around me. They respect what I'm doing in the league and I respect them also and it's just fun now because I feel like we're all a big family."

    2006 marks the second consecutive year that Gates has been selected to play in the Pro Bowl. But this year the feeling is much different than it was a year ago. He is more comfortable in his surroundings and he is enjoying the week and the festivities go along with being at the Pro Bowl that much more.

    "I have a little bit more experience," he explained. "Obviously this time here I have a chance to experience so much more and now it's different. I feel comfortable here and I'm not tight like I was last year. This year it feels like a vacation to me."

    What's not lost on Gates is the fact that he's one of only 42 AFC all-stars competing here this week, a very small total when you consider that there are 848 players on active rosters in the AFC alone.

    "You want to make it," Gates explained about the drive that helped make him a Pro Bowler for the second-consecutive year. "This is one of your individual goals, to become a Pro Bowl player, and for those who didn't make it here, I know they continue to work hard and we try to set the standard for those who didn't make it, saying that this is what we do and this is how we prepare to get to this point."

    Even more special is looking around the practice field at the NFL's Pro Bowl Headquarters and seeing five of his teammates also wearing the red and white colors of the AFC.

    "Man, it's wonderful," he said about the large Chargers contingent in Hawaii. "That means we should have won a Super Bowl this year. That's what it means to me, but you know what, things happen and we're looking forward to next year."

    To a man, each of the Chargers who are here representing the team in Hawaii will tell you that they are all disappointed with the way the 2005 season ended. But now that ample time has passed since the season's final game, Gates has had time to reflect on some of his accomplishments of the past season. Besides being the league's leading receiver among tight ends, he also became the first tight end in NFL history (since 1970) to record consecutive seasons with 10 or more touchdown catches.

    "It's shocking to me and I feel like I'm a blessed person," he said. "Most people don't understand that I work my butt off every single day in order to accomplish things and stay at the top of my game. I think that's what most people need to realize is that this wasn't an overnight thing for me. I had to work hard to get to this level."

    With statistics that rival some of the NFL's top tight ends ever, including former Chargers Hall of Famer and Pro Football Hall of Famer Kellen Winslow, Gates appears a bit embarrassed when his name is mentioned among the league's elite tight ends. This season's total of 1,101 yards by Gates was the most by a Chargers tight end since Winslow racked up 1,172 yards in 1983, a span of 22 seasons.

    "It is flattering to me to be even named among the elite group of tight ends that ever played the game, guys like Kellen Winslow, Mike Ditka and Ozzie Newsome," said Gates. "It's one of those things where if I can continue to work hard then I can become just like them."

    One of the highlights of the week for Antonio has been the chance to reunite with the AFC's tight ends coach, Tim Brewster, who was Gates' position coach during his first two seasons in the league. The respect between the two is mutual and Brewster spoke about how exciting it is for him to have another chance to tutor Antonio.

    "It's really exciting for me to see his development and see the confidence that he plays with," said Brewster. "He is the premier tight end in the National Football League today and it's really exciting for me just to be around him."

    While Brewster has moved on to greener pastures with the Denver Broncos, Gates couldn't be happier for the chance to work with Rob Chudzinski, the man who came to San Diego in 2005 to replace Brewster. Gates talks about his new coach whom the players affectionately refer to as "Chud."

    "Chud's been awesome," said Gates of his position coach with the Chargers. "It was hard for me to not respect Chud with all the guys he's coached and all the guys he's been around. He elevates my game by just another notch. When he came in, he brought so much to the table and he's taught me so much and I've learned a lot from a guy who's been around a lot of great tight ends."

    In talking to Gates, it's easy to see that the early success in his career has not gone to his head. He's one of the hardest working and most likable players you will ever meet in the National Football League. It's been a great start to a great career for a terrific young man and Chargers fans can continue to expect nothing but great things from one of the NFL's budding stars and one of its most popular Pro Bowlers.
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