NFL World Shocked as Legendary TE Antonio Gates Will Not Be a First-Ballot Hall of Famer

Many felt Antonio Gates would earn his Hall of Fame nod, but following his snub, fans were "disgusted," and a former teammate called it an "embarrassment."

Antonio Gates has, arguably, one of the more unique journeys the NFL has ever seen, which ended with him continuing to rewrite the narrative of how to view tight ends.

Yet, despite eight Pro Bowls and three All-Pro nods, TMZ Sports first reported that the former San Diego/Los Angeles Chargers star will not be a first-ballot Hall of Famer — leading to a flurry of social media reactions after learning his HOF fate.

Now that the league has officially announced its list of 2024 Hall of Fame class inductees, Gates indeed is out.

Why Antonio Gates Is Considered Deserving of First-Ballot Honor

Gates’ path to a Hall of Fame résumé is the most unconventional.

If you want to know when he was selected in the 2003 NFL Draft, the answer is that he wasn’t. That’s right. One of the greatest tight ends to ever play wasn’t even drafted. The then-San Diego Chargers signed Gates as an undrafted free agent.

In college…well…he didn’t do anything. Gates literally did not play football in college, instead opting to play power forward in basketball.

Gates’  hardwood chapter was equally astonishing and one full of miles. He first set out to attempt the rare dual-sport try of playing football and basketball at Michigan State. Then-Spartans head coach Nick Saban encouraged him to only pursue the gridiron, Gates said in a 2010 interview with ESPN.

He eventually transferred to Eastern Michigan and latched on to its basketball team. However, Gates later relocated to the College of the Sequoias in Visalia, California, to refocus on his academics.

He then made his way to Kent State — and later March Madness. Gates played on the 2002 Golden Flashes team that knocked off three national powerhouses in Oklahoma State, Alabama (a No. 2 seed), and Pittsburgh before falling in the Elite Eight.

Over the years, we’ve seen plenty of college basketball players become productive NFL tight ends. Yet, usually, those players at least played college football.

Gates didn’t play football at all. For him to go from basketball to being a professional football player is an amazing accomplishment in and of itself. If he spent a few years in the league as a role player, that would’ve been impressive. Yet, here we are discussing Gates’ case for the Hall of Fame.

Gates was able to get on the field as a rookie UDFA, catching 24 passes for 389 yards and two touchdowns. Unsurprisingly, he was used a bit sparingly as he learned how to play the position.

It didn’t take Gates long to figure things out, though. In 2004, he established himself as one of the best tight ends in the league. He caught 81 passes for 964 yards and 13 touchdowns.

As a sophomore, Gates made the Pro Bowl and was selected as a first-team All-Pro member. From 2004-2011, he made the Pro Bowl every year. He made first-team All-Pro three times (2004-2006) and second-team All-Pro twice (2009-2010).

Over that span, Gates caught at least seven touchdowns in every season. He was remarkably durable, missing just two games in each of his first seven seasons.

While Gates never led the NFL in any statistical category, he was consistently at the top and did it for a long time. He posted two 1,100-yard seasons and four double-digit touchdown seasons.

Gates Remained Productive as He Aged

What really adds to Gates’ case is what he was able to do after he was clearly past his prime.

After 2011, he stopped making Pro Bowls. In fact, one of Gates’ worst seasons came in 2012 at the age of 32. Given his age and length of career, no one would’ve faulted him for breaking down. Instead, he hung around for another seven years.

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Gates had 800-yard receiving seasons at the ages of 33 and 34. In 2014, at 34, he caught 12 touchdowns. Gates wasn’t just out there going through the motions in his older years; he was still a very effective weapon in the passing game.

Gates’ career came to a close on Jan. 13, 2019, in a playoff loss to the New England Patriots. He ended his career reminding everyone that the old man still had it, catching five of eight targets for 41 yards and a touchdown.

Gates officially announced his retirement in January 2020. This season was his first year of HOF eligibility.

Ex-Chargers Teammate Calls Gates’ Snub ‘Embarrassment’

Sure enough, there were some vocal fans in learning Gates’ first-ballot fate. One of the more outspoken was his former Chargers teammate Shawne Merriman.

“Antonio Gates not being a first ballot is an absolute embarrassment, they should be ashamed,” Merriman posted on X (formerly known as Twitter).

Another former NFL linebacker Devon Kennard was just as blunt.

“Antonio Gates not being a first ballot HOFer is a BAD call!” Kennard posted.

Lastly, one Bolts fan couldn’t help but post how disgusted he was.

“How in God’s green earth do you look at what Antonio Gates did revolutionizing the tight end position in the NFL and omit him from the Hall of Fame?? It’s an embarrassment to the sport of football. I’m disgusted,” the fan shared.

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