It was 1997 when the Kansas City Chiefs made one of the best decisions in their storied history: They drafted a tight end out of Cal by the name of Tony Gonzalez.
Gonzalez was a former basketball player and pretty darn athletic. You see that now-a-days with tight ends. They're all freak athletes and pass-catchers before blockers. Gonzalez came slightly before that era of the pass-catching tight end really hit its high point.
But he's still the best.
On Friday night, even though it's just a preseason game, Gonzalez will face the Kansas City Chiefs for the first time in his career.
Via an interview with Randy Covitz of the Kansas City Star:
"It's going to be weird," Gonzalez said. "I've been getting that question this week, and not just from reporters, but from my family and friends, and yeah, nostalgia is going to pop up. The relationships, all the hard work that you put in, the bad times that you went through with the organization ...
"And it's not just about football. It's about time spent in the city, the relationships I made with the fans. I'm sure some of them will travel, because the fans are unbelievable. But it is an exhibition game, and I'm keeping that in mind. It's really for the young guys, and you just want to get through it healthy and get some of the timing back."
What's amazing about Gonzalez, and part of the reason Kansas City liked him until the end (and continues to this day, really) is because it seemed like he never aged. His numbers were so consistent and they actually improved at times after he hit 30. It was amazing.
That's why it was no surprise to hear him tell the Star that he could possibly play another 3-4 years. The Falcons and Chiefs, by the way, play in the regular season in 2012.
So it's possible we haven't seen the rest of Tony.
By then, he'll likely be nearing on second place for the all-time receptions record.
This isn't tight ends, mind you. This is everyone. Jerry Rice is the NFL leader with 1,549 receptions. Gonzalez stands right now at 999 and in 7th place. By 2012, he'll likely have passed Marvin Harris with 1,102 receptions.
Frankly, that's unbelievable (no, really, I had to double check the numbers because it's unbelievable).