Honor the Heroes of the Game, Preserve Its History, Promote Its Values & Celebrate Excellence Everywhere
“That's what football has always taught me. On the football field, you're going to be afraid. Adversity is going to come towards you. You can't run from it.”
(California)...6'5'', 250...1st round pick (13th overall) in the 1997 NFL by Kansas City Chiefs ... Made immediate impact as rookie ... Never caught less than 59 passes in a season other than his rookie year ... Traded to Falcons ... At time of retirement ranked 2nd in career receptions (1,325), most seasons with 50 or more receptions (16) and most consecutive games with a reception (211) … Born February 27,1976 in Torrance, California
The Kansas City Chiefs selected Tony Gonzalez out of the University of California in the first round of the 1997 NFL Draft. He retired 17 seasons later as the all-time leader in catches, yards and touchdowns by a tight end.
While Gonzalez made an immediate impact as a rookie, his breakout season came during his third year when he led the Chiefs in receiving with 76 catches for 849 yards and 11 touchdown receptions to earn his first of 14 Pro Bowl nods. That same season, he was named first-team All-Pro for the first of seven times. He followed that season with an even better year in 2000 when he caught 93 passes for 1,203 yards and nine touchdowns.
Other than his rookie year, Gonzalez never caught less than 59 passes in a season during his career and surpassed 80 catches eight times. He led the NFL in receptions in 2004 with a career-high 102 catches and reached 1,000 yards for the second time in his career.
Gonzalez was traded to the Atlanta Falcons in 2009. It was with the Falcons, in 2012, that Gonzalez reached his lone conference championship game. Unfortunately, even though Gonzalez caught eight passes for 78 yards and a touchdown, the Falcons fell to the San Francisco 49ers 28-24.
Gonzalez’s final career numbers are staggering. They read 1,325 receptions for 15,127 yards and 111 TDs. Gonzalez eclipsed 900-yards receiving in a season nine times and had 10 or more TDs in a season three times.
He played in 270 regular season games and missed just one game during his career. At the time of his retirement, Gonzalez ranked second in career receptions (1,325), most seasons with 50 or more receptions (16) and most consecutive games with a reception (211). He also ranked fifth all-time in receiving yards (15,127).
Gonzalez led the Chiefs in receiving eight times and the Falcons once. He is a member of the NFL All-Decade Team of the 2000s.
Additional Career Statistics: Rushing: 2-14; Passing: 1-1-40; Two-Point Conversions: 4
2012 NFC – San Francisco 49ers 28, Atlanta Falcons 24
Gonzalez started at tight end. He had 8 receptions for 78 yards and one TD.
All-Pro: 1999 (AP, PFWA, SN) · 2000 (AP, PFWA, SN) · 2001 (AP, PFWA, SN) · 2002 (PFWA, SN) · 2003 (AP, PFWA, SN) · 2008 (AP, PFWA, SN) · 2012 (AP, ESPN)
All-Pro Second Team: 2002 (AP) · 2004 (AP) · 2006 (AP) · 2007 (AP)
All-AFC: 1999 (PW) · 2000 (PW) · 2001 (PW) · 2002 (PW) · 2003 (PW)
(14) – 2000, 2001, 2002*, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2011, 2012, 2013*, 2014
*Did not play
In the NFL Record Book (at time of his retirement following 2013 season)
Pro Bowl Records
Chiefs records held by Gonzalez
(Records through the 2008 season, Gonzalez’s final season with Kansas City)
Falcons records held by Gonzalez
(Records through the 2013 season, Gonzalez’s final season with Atlanta)
League/Team Statistical Titles
NFL Statistical Championships
Receiving Titles: 2004KC
AFC Statistical Championships
Team Statistical Championships
Receiving Titles: 1999 KC, 2000 KC, 2001 KC, 2004 KC, 2005 KC, 2006 KC, 2007 KC, 2008 KC,
Scoring Titles: 2008 KC
KC Kansas City Chiefs ATL Atlanta Falcons
Awards and Honors
Year-by-Year Team Records
1997 Kansas City Chiefs........... 13-3-0 (1st)
1998 Kansas City Chiefs............... 7-9-0 (4th)
1999 Kansas City Chiefs............... 9-7-0 (2nd)
2000 Kansas City Chiefs............... 7-9-0 (3rd)
2001 Kansas City Chiefs............. 6-10-0 (4th)
2002 Kansas City Chiefs............... 8-8-0 (4th)
2003 Kansas City Chiefs........... 13-3-0 (1st)
2004 Kansas City Chiefs............... 7-9-0 (3rd)
2005 Kansas City Chiefs............. 10-6-0 (2nd)
2006 Kansas City Chiefs............. 9-7-0 (2nd)
2007 Kansas City Chiefs............. 4-12-0 (3rd)
2008 Kansas City Chiefs............. 2-14-0 (4th)
2009 Atlanta Falcons................... 9-7-0 (2nd)
2010 Atlanta Falcons................ 13-3-0 (1st)
2011 Atlanta Falcons................ 10-6-0 (2nd)
2012 Atlanta Falcons................ 13-3-0 (1st)
2013 Atlanta Falcons.................. 4-12-0 (3rd)
Full Name: Anthony David Gonzalez
Birthdate: February 27, 1976
Birthplace: Torrance, California
High School: Huntington Beach (CA)
Pro Career: 17 seasons, 270 games
Drafted: 1st round (13th player overall) in 1997 by Kansas City Chiefs
Yeah! Thank you, thank you, thank you. It's such a ‑‑ it's so amazing to be up here. I see the crowd has thinned out a little bit. I guess, first of all, I'm only going to be up here for about 52 minutes, so everybody just ‑‑ I'm just kidding. I won't be up here that long. But thank you for sticking around.
But in the spirit of saying thank you, I want to start with gratitude, then I'm going to get to a couple stories. But I want to tell you, thank you to everybody, the City of Canton. You guys have been nothing but gracious to us. 4,200 volunteers. This is truly a football mecca for anybody out there.
I want to thank my fellow classmates, 2019 Hall of Fame. We did it, baby. I love it.
(Cheers and applause.)
The Hall of Famers that have paved the way for all of us, I truly, truly am grateful for you guys. It's been an unbelievable special honor to be surrounded by you guys and to be in these ‑‑ behind the closed doors that the fans don't get to see, it's unbelievable.
And having said that, I want to say thank you to a couple Hall of Famers. Michael Strahan, thank you. Thanks for coming out. I appreciate it. I heard you haven't been back since you got inducted, so I'll take a little credit for that. But thank you for the mentorship.
Shannon Sharpe, I want to ‑‑
Shannon Sharpe, you know, I played in the AFC West, and so I got to see Shannon twice a year, and he was the man when I came in. He was the man for a while. And I truly learned a lot just by watching Shannon, and I appreciate you, buddy.
One of my teammates when I first got into the league was Marcus Allen.
And during my rookie year, I hit what is called the rookie wall, and I was struggling. And Marcus, who I didn't know that well, came up to me, and he said, Hey, give me your phone number. I want to give you a call. And I was like ‑‑ I had no idea what he wanted. He called me that night, said, Keep your head up, rook. You got this. Don't worry about a thing. And that means a lot. Taught me going forward how to treat other young players. So, thank you, Marcus.
Will Shields. Appreciate you, buddy. I watched you a lot. Watched you doing all your sets, your kick steps, drops. Always working on your technique. And I stole from you. It took me a while to figure it out, but I eventually stole from the way you prepared, and I appreciate you.
Willie Roaf. You came to us a little bit later. I don't know where he's at. He's probably getting something to drink. No, there he is. I didn't see you behind my big head. I'm sorry. You're a beast. I used to love watching you maul people. I don't know if you guys have ever seen Willie Roaf walk. He doesn't look that athletic, but as soon as he takes off, it's like a deer. And this guy was arguably one of the best or the best to ever do it.
Then a very special relationship I was able to have with a Hall of Famer here, Warren Moon.
(Cheers and applause.)
When Warren got to the Chiefs, he was the oldest guy on our team. And this was my third year, and I was the youngest guy on our team. And we got together, we got together and we had ourselves a good time. And he taught me, really taught me how to play this game. He worked with me after practice. We went all around the country having a great time, and he really taught me what it was meant to be a pro. And I appreciate you, buddy.
You know, you don't get here without the help. By the way, I'm going to congratulate a lot of people. I played 17 years in the league. I think it was five head coaches. So just bear with me, but you can't get here without the help of people. And I want to thank Constance Schwartz, manager, SMAC Entertainment. Thank you.
Tracy Perlman from the NFL, you're a lifesaver. Tracy, I appreciate everything you've done for me. Jay Glazer, little bald guy, my eyes and ears in the NFL. Appreciate you, buddy. We've been through a lot. Can't tell those stories here. Tom Condon, my agent, best in the business. Thank you for getting me a lot of money, getting me paid.
Lamonte Winston, Kevin Winston, player personnel from the Kansas City Chiefs. I got so lucky. Lamonte Winston was the first 12 years in Kansas City, and then I had his brother, Kevin Winston, in Atlanta. And these guys are awesome. What they do for the players, getting them ready, telling them to go back to school, telling them how they deal with their wives, children, better fathers. You guys are awesome, and I appreciate it.
And then my post career, I want to thank CBS for giving me an opportunity, and I want to thank Fox for letting me work right now and enjoy one of the greatest jobs I got ‑‑ I could have.
I'm going to go back to the beginning where I started. I'm from Huntington Beach, California ‑‑
‑‑ where I played at Huntington Beach High School. I had some great coaches there. Roy Miller was my varsity basketball coach. Him and Coach CJ, thank you for those rides that you would give me after practice. I lived about 20, 25 minutes away from school and didn't have a car. Sometimes I'd have to take the bus. And Coach Miller would give me a ride home, and we have some good conversations, and I appreciate those conversations that we had.
Coach Pascoe, varsity football coach. Thank you for being a mentor at a very young age for me and letting me be me. I know I was tough. I was a knucklehead back then, showing up to practice late. But thank you for bearing with me.
Coach Curtis, my freshman football coach, he's the one that got me to play tight end. I used to want to be a running back. Like I said, I'm from LA, Orange County. I wanted to be like Marcus Allen, Bo Jackson. But Coach Curtis said, You're going to play tight end. So thank you for making one of the best decisions I've ever made ‑‑ or you've ever made for me.
And then the friends, couple of my Pop Warner ‑‑ actually played Pop Warner with these guys. These guys are still some of my very best friends, Nick Ziegler and Justin Flagg.
From high school, I went to Berkeley, California. The University of California Golden Bears, one of the greatest institutions in the country. A little weird. People dye their hair blonde and orange. People go to school naked. They have rallies all the time. But I loved it. Kind of brought me out of my shell. A little too much at times, but we'll get to that.
While I was there, Coach Mariucci and Hue Jackson, offensive coordinator and head coach. Coach Mariucci, I remember he came in and they started throwing me the ball a lot. And I remember I declared to go the NFL. Coach Mariucci, I'll never forget it, went to his office after I declared, he actually called me in, and said, Tony, I got something to tell you. You're not ready. You're not ready for the NFL.
And I'm happy to say I didn't listen to you, and I love you for that. I know you're recruiting for the next year, but, Coach Mariucci, thank you for helping me jump start and get to the NFL.
I want to thank ‑‑ you know, I played college basketball. Some of the greatest experiences of my life were playing at Berkeley with some great teammates. Went to the Sweet 16 my junior year. Played against North Carolina and Dean Smith. We lost, of course. But some of the coaches along the way, Kurt Townsend and Billy Kennedy. I think they're here tonight. I want to tell you guys thank you for the mentorship and taking me under your wing.
From Berkeley to the Kansas City Chiefs.
13th pick overall. I want to thank Lamar Hunt and Norma Hunt and Clark Hunt now for taking a chance on me. I really appreciate you guys.
I want to thank Carl Peterson, general manager, for trading up. He was the 18th pick that year; they traded up to No. 13. Thank you for taking that chance on me. And I know we had our battles during contract negotiations, but we always got it done. And thank you for paying me. I appreciate it.
Offensive coordinators. Want to highlight a couple of them. Jimmy Raye. Jimmy Raye, going into my third year, he became the offensive coordinator. And he fed me the ball. And I appreciate you, Jimmy, for using me in ways that I never knew I could be used, moving me all over the field. Thank you for that innovation and creativeness.
Al Saunders, who's here, too, thank you for looking for ways to get me the ball. I know we butted heads every once in a while, but I really appreciate you.
To the head coaches while I was there. When I first got there, it was Marty Schottenheimer, the late ‑‑ well, you know, he's still ‑‑ I'm sorry. Marty Schottenheimer, one of the greatest coaches of all time. Still the words echo in my ears: This is a performance‑driven business, men. If you don't perform, you won't be in business too long. That always stuck with me.
The late Gunther Cunningham, who always wore yellow glasses. He said it made him mean. I don't know if that's true or not, but I loved playing for Gunther.
I want to thank Herman Edwards. Really appreciate you. Best thing about Coach Edwards I loved, he said: ‘I'm going to treat you like a man.’ And he did. And I appreciate you.
And a special ‑‑ you know, sometimes coaching transcends just coaching. It becomes a friendship. It's more than just being there in the locker room or him sitting up and talking to you. I think the epitome of someone like that is Coach Vermeil, Coach Dick Vermeil, who's here.
And Coach Vermeil was the greatest. He would open up his home to all the players. He'd come ‑‑ him and his wife, Carol, they would make home‑cooked meals, they'd serve bottles of wine, and they'd bring everybody. They treated everybody the same. And I loved you for that, Coach, and I appreciate you.
Coach Mike White, somebody who was on his staff. He was great. I don't know what his title was, but he was always there, getting us ‑‑ we'd call him the "get back" coach, we'd call him the "riverside" coach. I don't know what he was, but I really appreciate our relationship, Coach White.
John Embree. He was my tight end coach. Johnny taught me a lot. When you got there, I was already on my way to doing some good things with the position, but I think you elevated that. And you made me a better player, and I appreciate you.
I want to go through my quarterbacks while I was there in Kansas City. Every quarterback that ever threw me a football, I just want to say: I appreciate you. Elvis Grbac, Rich Gannon, Warren Moon, Brodie Croyle, Tyler Thigpen, Damon Huard, and a guy that I played five years with and we did some damage, Trent Green. Thank you.
You heard the guys talk about relationships, and I had some great ones, and they're still great friends of mine. Loved playing with Jason Dunn, best blocking tight end in NFL history.
John Welbourn. One hell of a guard. Great friend. Tony Richardson, one of the best fullbacks in NFL history.
Billy Baber, tight end. Became great friends, man. I love you. And Kevin Lockett, who I got drafted with. I was the first pick; he was the second pick in the draft. He's also my oldest son's godfather. Nikko, ask him about some gifts now. I think he owes you a couple gifts.
And then to the fans, the fans of Kansas City.
Are you in the house, Kansas City Chief fans?
You know what, I'll never forget, when I first got to Kansas City, they were singing the Star Spangled Banner, and ‑‑ you guys know where I'm going with this ‑‑ at the end of the song, I didn't know what was coming, and they ‑‑ let me know if you know this one. It comes to the end of it, and it says "And the home of the..."
There it is. And then you'd see the flyover. Nothing else like playing at Arrowhead Stadium.
And it brings me ‑‑ after I had gotten traded to Atlanta, I came back to Kansas City to play a football game. I was on the other side of the ball. I wasn't sure how the fans were going to treat me. And so I was worried about it all week long. And then during the pregame, they introduced me, which I thought was very special.
And then something happened that was one of the greatest moments of my career. The Chief fans started yelling at the top of their lungs. And I remember I looked over, and a teammate of mine, Sam Baker, he looks at me, and he goes: ‘Wow. That is really special.’
And so, you Kansas City Chief fans, know how much I appreciated you and how much I cherished the relationships before the game, after game, coming out to the parking lot, giving cookies, giving burritos, words of encouragement. I love you guys. Thank you.
Got traded to Atlanta. I want to thank ‑‑
‑‑ the Atlanta Falcons franchise. I want to thank Arthur Blank, owner, Thomas Dimitroff taking a chance, putting a second ‑‑ spending a second-round draft choice on an old guy who's been in the league 12 years. I think I remember it when you said, Hey, man, I just put a second-round draft choice, can you ‑‑ you mind playing more than one year? And I gave you five years. And I'm proud of that, and I say thank you.
(Cheers and applause.)
Coach Mike Smith. Smitty. We did some damage, man. Four winning seasons out of the five seasons I was there. NFC Championship game. Won my first playoff game. I thank you very much for guiding us and leading us.
And then I want to talk about the relationships, too. Chris Scelfo, my position coach. This is another one of those relationships that go off the field. I have ‑‑ at that time, I was established, and I kind of knew what I was doing with the position, but I learned from you. I really did.
And I tell you what, I had never had that much fun being in a little 5‑by‑5 tight end room. That's where they stick the tight ends. We got the smallest room on the team. But we had a hell of a time and some laughs, and I really appreciate everything you've done for me.
My teammates while I was there, Sam Baker, Mr. Baker's son, Coy Wire, Julio Jones, and "Rowdy" Roddy White, who I think is here, one of the best receivers of all time. Maybe he'll be up here one day.
And last but not least, I want to thank Matt Ryan, one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL. He's on his way.
He already is one of the best quarterbacks in NFL history. We made sweet music together, Matt, and I appreciate you.
Then the fans, of course. Atlanta rise up. Rise up.
Being at an Atlanta Falcon game is like being at a church. I loved going out during pregame, getting hyped with you guys. Thank you so much.
Those are the ‑‑ that's the gratitude I want to give. But now I want to tell some stories. They say life boils down to a couple key moments where your life can change just like that. And I've isolated those three times in my life. Some of it you already heard, but I'm going to give you guys the details now.
When I was younger, I played Pop Warner football. At least I tried to play Pop Warner football. First time I went out, I didn't like it. I was good on the playground without pads, but when you put pads on, it's a different game. You got to hit people with your head, with your shoulders. I didn't like it, and so I quit.
And I remember my mom getting real upset with me. But she said, I'm going to let you be you. Okay. Next year I went out for Pop Warner again. Remember, I had quit the middle of the season.
And I remember seeing all the young guys on the team, and they were telling me ‑‑ I remember one guy named Eric Escobedo, who was the young guy on the team, young stud, and he said: ‘Gonzalez, what are you doing here? What are you trying out for again?’ And I said, ‘I don't know.’ But I still didn't figure it out. I was scared. I'm scared.
And fast forward. I played on the team that year, but I never played. Literally, you pay $135 to be on the Pop Warner football team; you're supposed to get six plays back then. I wouldn't even get six plays. I would go in the game, do the warmups, and Coach would never put me in. Because I was afraid.
Fast forward, eighth grade year. All of a sudden, this guy from the high school ‑‑ I'm in eighth grade, junior high, he's in high school ‑‑ he wants to beat me up. I don't know why. I still don't know why, honestly. But this guy wants to beat me up.
And so, you know how reputations go. The legend builds on people, and they're like, yeah, this guy got in a fight last week. He beat up two kids. Hit one kid in the head with a brick. Beat the other one over the head with a skateboard. And I'm like, oh, I can't fight this guy. I'm scared. Like, there's no way I'm going to fight this guy.
So, I remember every day after the bell would ring, I would ‑‑ I had a skateboard. That was my mode of transportation back then, was riding a skateboard. I think that's why I have such good balance for my height. And I would strategically place my skateboard behind this bush. And so, when that bell rang, I would jet and run towards that skateboard, and I would skate home.
No one ever saw me. I wouldn't go to school dances. I would do this every single day for about five months of eighth grade year. Scared.
I went from being kind of a cool kid at school to being the outcast. Nobody would talk to me anymore. All my friends were like, ew, that's that wimp. But I didn't care. I was like it's better to be a live chicken than a dead duck.
So, I was home watching TV. Then I get a call from this man, this guy, this bully, and he says, ‘Hey, why don't you fight me?’ And I said, ‘I don't know. I don't even know why you want to fight me.’ He said, ‘No, we're going to fight. That's all there is to it.’ I said, ‘All right, well, give me ‑‑ give me a couple weeks to train.’
So, we set the date of the fight. I start training, getting into shape. My mom knows about this. My family knows about this. Everybody knows about this. I think other schools know about this. Because the date of the fight comes, everybody's looking at me all day. They're like, are you going to go ‑‑ you going to fight him today? You're going to fight? I'm like, Yeah, yeah, I'm going to fight. Remember, I got no friends at this time. None. Nobody hangs out with me.
So, school ends. I'm on my skateboard riding towards the park, and I turn the corner and I go to the park, and I look down, and it's ‑‑ it's a little bit a ways away, and I'm not kidding you, they must have put out a bulletin on the news because there must have been a thousand kids there. A thousand kids. I'm telling you it was helicopters saying we're here at the fight. News reporters: This is it, he's finally going to fight him.
And I remember I looked at my ‑‑ I'm by myself, and I said, I'm out of here. I'm not doing that. So, I went home and hid in my house. Again. Again. Scared.
But it brings back memories. So, I'm scared. I'm in my house. They come by. They're driving at this point. They have a driver's license. And they're banging on the door, and they're saying, ‘Come on out. Come on out.’ I'm in there hiding in the closet. I don't know why. I'm inside the house already, but I'm hiding in the closet.
And I don't go out. Next day at school it gets even worse. We ride it out to the end of the season ‑‑ to the end of the school year. And the day of graduation comes. I'm at graduation. Everybody's got their cap and gown on. I got my cap and gown on. My whole family's there.
And they bring us out, and I'm walking down to get to my seat, and who do I see? I see the bully sitting there. Scared again. Heart starts pumping.
Graduation gets done. We throw our hats up in the air. I go and hide. I hide again. I go hide behind a wall. And I'm standing there behind the wall. My family's looking for me. They're like, ‘where the hell is Tony?’ I'm hiding. And it's like out of a movie. They come walking up, and I see them all at the same time, cousins, uncles, aunts. I see my brother Chris. I see my mom. Because those are the faces I remember.
And I remember the look on my mother's face. She's looking at me crazy at this point, like what are you doing. And that's what my brother said ‑‑ I could read his lips ‑‑ What are you doing? And I remember I got so riled up, and I said to myself ‑‑ I made a decision that day. That day. In that instant, it clicked for me.
I said I'll never be afraid again. I will never run from anything else in my life ever again. I'm going to face it head on. I'm going to scratch and claw. If I take an ass‑whooping, I'm going to take an ass‑whooping. That's all there is to it.
I went out there. That happened. I went looking for the guy. I couldn't find him. Freshman football the next year, all those same guys I played Pop Warner football with on the same team now. They're looking at me like ‘Oh, who's this guy?’ again, right?
And I remember the first day of pads, Eric Escobedo again. He's at the front of the line. They have this drill called Oklahoma drill. I don't think you're allowed to do it anymore. It's a man's drill. And he called ‑‑ I was fourth in line. He calls me to the front of the line. My heart started pumping again. That same fear started coming back, and I said: Not this time. Not this time.
And I went in there and lined up, and I said ‑‑ they blew that whistle. Boom. Two bulls in a ring. We hit each other stalemate, and that's the first time in my life that I was like, ahhh, I got this. I didn't win, but I got this. And I didn't run. And it felt so good. It felt so liberating.
I tell that story because all you kids out there playing football, or any sport, when you start out, it ain't how you start out, it's how you finish. First thing you got to do is get through that fear. First thing you got to do.
From high school, had a good high school career. Obviously, I went to Berkeley. When I got to Berkeley, another transformative power of crisis happened to me again. It was my second year, and I haven't done anything yet. I was a First‑Team All‑American. Everybody's expecting big things out of me. I wasn't even First‑Team, Second‑Team, Third‑Team, or even Honorable Mention All‑Pac‑10 back then. Ten teams in the Pac‑10 back then.
I was just on the team showing flashes every once in a while, what I could do. Basketball court, I'd have good games, then have a bunch of bad games. And the reason was because I was relying on my talent at that point, which wasn't enough. Wasn't focusing. I got caught up in that college atmosphere, in that environment.
So, one night I'm sitting there after a night of going out. I'm up in the Berkeley hills, and I'm sitting on one of the little mountaintops up there. I'm by myself. I'm looking out. You can see the Oakland Airport. You can see the planes coming in and out, taking off, flying out.
And I remember looking at it, and it dawned on me, all of a sudden, in that instant dawned on me, and I projected myself to those planes. I could be on one of those planes heading back to Los Angeles, back to Huntington Beach, doing nothing, or I could be on that plane going somewhere special, somewhere that's going to change my life forever. But I got to focus. I got to focus. I got to take it seriously. Because I wasn't.
And I tell that story because I started to take it serious. I started going to class all the time. I started showing up for workouts, but really focused, and I started taking everything more serious. Stopped partying. Got my act together.
And then Coach Mariucci and Hue Jackson came in, like I said before. I was First‑Team All‑American the next year. Gone to the Kansas City Chiefs, 13th pick overall. Went to the Sweet 16. Had a great tournament. And it was all because of focus. So, focus. Fearless and focus.
The last story is my second year with the Kansas City Chiefs, Dennis alluded to it, that it was the worst year of my career, without ‑‑ goes without saying. I led the NFL in dropped passes that year. Sixteen dropped passes. I got benched twice during the game. Coach said, ‘go sit on the bench. Not playing well.’
I got booed by the home crowd. Rightfully so. Chief fans. Got booed. Got written up in the paper and said, ‘this guy’s on the verge of being a bust.’ And it hurt. Nobody likes that.
So, I remember being in my room crying, depressed, drinking, not ‑‑ in a deep hole. And the more it seems you get depressed, the more it's harder to get out. And I was stuck there for a while, throughout that whole season, until my brother Donnie, he wrote me a letter. It was a quick letter. Just said: ‘Hey, Tony, I don't know what we've seen out there, but that's not you. It's not you. Get back to being Tony. You can do this.’
And he put a book of Vince Lombardi quotes. It was just little ‑‑ all the quotes that Vince Lombardi says, you know: ‘The greatest moment of a man's life is when he lies totally exhausted on the battlefield glorious.’
That stuff spoke to me. It hit me right here. I was like, I like this. It got me going.
So, I went out there, and I did something I hadn't done since seventh grade. I went and bought a book. I bought a
Vince Lombardi book, biography of Vince Lombardi. The only book I had bought before that was a Bo Jackson book, "Bo Knows," in seventh grade. Every other reading, it was required reading, which I hardly did some of that at times.
But I devoured this book by Vince Lombardi. I learned what it takes to be great. And off of that, I got done with that book, and I was like, I like this. I really enjoyed that. I'm going to go get another book.
And I started devouring books. I started reading biographies, guys like ‑‑ about Jerry Rice, Barry Sanders. Started reading about great coaches, Phil Jackson, Lou Holtz, Pat Riley. Started learning the process, the routine of success, what makes a player great.
And off of that, I was that guy at practice. Like a lot of guys in the league, believe it or not, this is why the Hall of Famers sit up here, because they're different. I don't know if it's more athleticism. I don't believe it is. I believe it's in here. It's in your heart, and it's in your mind. And I finally ‑‑ it finally clicked for me once I learned how to do that.
So, I changed my whole routine. Before, I'd go to practice, I'd catch maybe 20, 30 balls at practice. Believe it or not, that's all receivers usually catch. But now I said, I'm going to take a page out of Will Shields book. I'm going to ‑‑ while the defense is going, I'm going to catch balls. And I would catch 10, 15, 20 balls while the defense was going.
Before practice, I'd go out early. I'd catch a hundred balls before practice even started. I'd get ready and go out early. I never did this before.
After practice, when the coach would tell us what we're going to do, everybody would take off to the locker room, go home, play video games, go see your sweetie pie. I'm staying out here, and I'm going to get some more catches, with my helmet on, with my mouthpiece in, putting myself in the moment.
And I learned this all from watching the greats, all from watching the greats, because success leaves clues. You just have to learn about it, and you have to watch, you have to open your eyes. And that changed my life forever. It was the greatest thing to ever happen to me, was to have that year; Was the greatest thing that to happen to me.
The downs is where the learning is. That's where the knowledge comes. And I'm forever grateful for all these, for these three stories I just gave you. That is the reason why I'm standing here. It's not about the touchdowns. It's not about the catches. It's not about the glory.
The most learning you'll ever do is when you go through the bad times. In fact, that's part of it. That's part of it. So welcome that when it comes, because I know what it's done for me.
(Cheers and applause.)
And now I want to get to some important people in my life, my family. I want to thank my dad, Joe, and his wife, Norma. I want to thank Lauren Sanchez for taking care of our child when I was playing out in Kansas City, Nikko.
I want to thank my brothers, Vince, Donnie, Travis. I love you guys. Every catch I ever made; it was all of us.
I want to thank Dennis Allen, my cousin, my best friend, my confidante. It means so much to me that I could call. You see the story of all the guys up here. You always have that one guy that you can call after the game. And I always knew I could count on you to give me great advice, and now it's about being a father, being a husband. Appreciate you.
I want to thank my grandmother. My grandma's over here. She just turned 101 years old ‑‑
July 4th. And she's still got it. Trust me. She's raising hell. You know, she gave me some of the best advice ever. She said, Tony, when you catch that ball, run like hell.
And that's some of the best advice, Grandma. Thank you. I love you. So glad you could be here.
I want to thank my stepdad, Michael Saltzman. He's no longer with us. Yeah, I know he's here. I know he's here. But I appreciate everything that man did for me. For all of us. All the boys. I know I echo what you guys are thinking. To come into a house with a bunch of boys, not having kids of your own, and take on that type of responsibility, God, that speaks volumes, and I appreciate you.
I thank my wife, October.
I love you. Always have, always will. You are an inspiration to me, and I have so much fun with you. Even if you don't even like football.
She doesn't like football. But I love you, baby.
And I want to get to the centerpiece of why I'm here. Two people. My brother Chris. I remember when I was younger, didn't really like football. And he used to take me across the street by the arm and say, ‘you're going to play. You're going to play this game. Come play catch with me.’ And I thank you, Chris. Really appreciate it. You're a big part of my career, and I couldn't be standing here without you.
I want to thank ‑‑ yeah, yeah ‑‑ my mother. Everybody knows Mom. And you think, Mom, shoot. Mom, I love you. You're the strongest person I know. Seriously, you're the strongest person I know. You're always in a good mood. You're always happy. You're always so positive, no matter what. And you tell it like it is. And you're honest. It's the most important thing. It's radical honesty with you. You don't sugarcoat it. And I love you for that, and I think we all love you for that.
And I'm so glad, you know, you get up here and you get to this point, it's great for us, right, but it's your family and it's your friends. It's your mom. It's your family. They're coming with you. They're coming with you. And I thank you, Mom, from the bottom of my heart. And I thank everybody who showed up for me. I really appreciate you guys coming out.
And, last, I was debating on whether or not I was going to read this to you guys, but I have four children ‑‑ Nikko, Malia, River, and Sophia. And I gave you guys all letters this morning. I don't know if you opened them up. But my wife told me to read it to you. So, I'm going to read it to you.
First, I love you very much. You know that football and sports has brought me great happiness and given us a life I never imagined. But none of that could compare to the joy, the fulfillment, the satisfaction, the fun, the pride, the love I feel in being your father.
I know this Hall of Fame weekend has been about me and my experiences to get to this moment. However, I now want to shift this moment to you guys. There is no doubt in my mind that everything I have achieved you can achieve, and more. This is only if you are fearless enough to discover what it is that you truly love to do.
In order to do this, you must stay present, stay curious, stay joyful. If you do this, chances are you won't have to find what you love, but what you love will surely find you. And when it finds you, give it all you got. Because the more you love something, the less discipline you'll need.
Where else would you rather be if you love what you're doing? Why wouldn't you want to learn more about what you do if you love it? I promise you; time will slip away when you find what you love to do.
But get ready, because in your pursuit of finding what you love to do, you are guaranteed to get something that no one on this earth is immune to. Beautiful growing pains are coming. The critics are coming. Like every child of a successful person, you will be compared. When this comparison comes, don't listen. Good or bad, do not listen. Remember: Comparison is the thief of joy.
You will get knocked down, you will fail, and you will doubt yourself. But that is a good thing. That, my sweet children, is where the gold is. That is where you will come face to face with who you really are and find out what you are truly made of. Be fearless and go there.
The fight you have with inner fear is the most worthwhile fight you will ever have. Life takes off on the other side of fear. When hard times come, dig deep, close your eyes, and breathe slowly. Tell yourself: I got this. I've got what it takes. I am more than enough. See the greatest version of yourself. Feel it with every cell in your body, and let that vision guide you, for that is who you are meant to be.
Success comes in all shapes and sizes, but there is a difference. True success is more than making a lot of money or being recognized as one of the best at what you do. True success is about giving back. It's about kindness. It's about quality relationships. It's about finding joy in other people's joy.
Trust me, I have learned these things the hard way at times. These principles, combined with doing what you truly love to do, will no doubt make you an all‑star in the most important game there is; that is the game of life.
And, p.s., never ever forget that we are all in this together and always will be. I love you very much. Dad.