LOS ANGELES—Los Angeles Chargers tight end Antonio Gates, announced his retirement from the NFL on Tuesday, January 14 via social media. 

Gates, 39, has played with the Chargers since he was signed as an undrafted free agent in 2003. He played college basketball for Kent State University. Despite playing basketball and not football in college, Gates managed to attract positive attention as a tight end in 2004, with 81 passes for 964 yards and 13 touchdowns.

In addition to those stats, Gates made eight consecutive Pro Bowls and earned Pro Bowl and All-Pro honors. The tight end led the Chargers in receiving each season from 2004 through 2007, which included three playoff appearances and a trip to the AFC Championship Game.

While it appeared the football star was done playing after 2017, another player’s injury brought him back on the field for an additional year. He recorded 955 catches for 11,841 receiving yards, and 116 touchdowns; each a franchise record.

Gated did not play in 2019, where he remained a free agent and will now be eligible for the Pro Football Hall of Fame following the 2023 season. He addressed his team, the NFL, and his fans in a statement that read: 

“I never dreamed that I would play this game of football so long or how fortunate I would be to play it with just one organization. I want to thank the Chargers organization, the National Football League, Dean Spanos and the Spanos family for the opportunity to live out a dream and play the game I love. To the fans in San Diego, Los Angeles, across the country and around the world, thank you for your unwavering support all these years. There would be no NFL without you.”