Dilip Vishwanat - Getty
It was inevitable. Sooner or later, Chiefs future Hall-of-Fame tight end Tony Gonzalez was going to break the tight-end touchdown record. His 63rd score passed Shannon Sharpe Sunday, but more importantly his second grab secured KC’s 27-20 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals.
The old adage is that some get better with age, and one could argue that Gonzalez, who already has 440 yards receiving and three touchdowns, isn’t showing any signs of slowing down.
He’s arguably the hardest working football player on KC’s roster. He never rests, he never gives up in a game and frequently plays hurt. Over the last few seasons he’s been managing a sore foot that would prevent most humans from walking, let alone playing in the NFL.
But above all else, Gonzalez wants to win. In order for that to happen, he knows he needs to keep catching passes and scoring touchdowns. On Sunday his first was KC’s initial first-quarter score this season, and his last gave the Chiefs enough cushion to stave off the Bengals late rally.
“The thing that makes it sweet is that we went out and won,” said Gonzalez. “That’s the most important thing. We were able to get a victory against a pretty good football team. As for the record, that’s just icing on the cake for me.”
The Chiefs offense has been shut down for most of 2007, but Sunday it turned in the most complete effort of the season. The key has been Gonzalez, who continues to thrive as quarterback Damon Huard’s main target.
Huard has a knack for throwing balls high enough so that only Gonzalez can reach them. But on the record-breaker, Gonzalez had to kick into another gear to catch up to it.
“I saw it up in the air, and I was like, ‘Oh no, he threw it way out there, but I’m not letting this one get away from me,” said Gonzalez. “I’m going to go and sell out and dive for it.”
That’s because Gonzalez wanted this record bad. It’s been eating at him since the end of last season, when he was so close. Now that he stands alone atop every tight end in NFL history, how does he feel?
“Really relieved,” said Gonzalez. “It’s just one of those things - I’m glad to get it over with.”
Chiefs fans are witnessing a career that is far from over. Gonzalez will go down as one of the greatest to ever play the position. In a few years, he’ll probably hold the records for most receptions and receiving yards by a tight end.
But he understands the players who came before him – great receivers like Kellen Winslow, Shannon Sharpe and John Mackey.
“It’s humbling,” said Gonzalez. “I like to consider myself a student of the position, especially when I was younger. Gunther (Cunningham) brought in a tape of Kellen Winslow. I watched it and dissected his game. And watching guys like Shannon Sharpe, watching Ben Coates, watching Mike Ditka, I met John Mackey and he gave me some tips. There have been so many great guys at that position and I’m just happy to be one of them. It’s just surreal in a way. I’m very, very happy that I’ve been able to achieve something like this.”
Though Gonzalez will long cherish his latest accomplishment, he won’t keep the ball. It will end up in the hands of his brother. The record-tying pigskin went to his mother.
They are merely temporary things that won’t define the sacrifices that Gonzalez makes in order to do one thing – win.
Since the day he stepped on an NFL field in 1997, Gonzalez has wanted nothing more than to help his team win games. He’s still searching for that Super Bowl ring, and that’s why he fights through every obstacle in his path.
Regardless of the circumstances that have kept the Chiefs from winning a playoff game on his watch, he’d probably trade every record, every catch and every touchdown to bring a championship to Kansas City. So it wasn’t surprising that after Sunday’s game, Gonzalez was happier over the win than his new record.
“I’m just happy and fortunate enough to go out there in a good situation and help this team and get a victory,” he said.