Page last updated on Fri Jul 31 19:28:26 EDT 2015
Tue, 22 Jan 2013 01:30 AM EST

Tony Gonzalez remembers talking to Michael Strahan after the former N.Y Giants defensive lineman won a Super Bowl title in his final game.

Talk about going out in style.

”That’s how you want to do it,” Gonzalez declared. ”That’s each athlete’s dream. I don’t care what sport it is. You’d love to win a championship and leave. Here’s where I am at now.”

It took him 16 years to finally win a playoff game.

Now, he’s two victories away from a Super Bowl championship with the Falcons, 2 wins away from going out the same way Strahan did.

”There’s without doubt I could play this game another 3 years if I wanted to, and at a high level too,” the 36-year-old Gonzalez asserted. ”But there comes a point in your career where you’ve gotten everything you ever wanted from this game.”

All, except a ring.

”Really, the one reason I played the last couple of years was for a chance like this,” Gonzalez said. ”Now that it’s presented itself, I feel closure coming on. But there’s more closure to look after. It is about winning the Super Bowl.”

The top-seeded Atlanta Falcons are looking to get to the Super Bowl for just the 2nd time in franchise history. Even though Gonzalez has not absolutely committed to retirement, there’s a definite sense in the Atlanta locker room of wanting to give him the ultimate going-away gift. Basketball lines

He’s given so much to the game, catching more passes than anyone in NFL history except Jerry Rice. He’s given so much to the Falcons during the last 4 years, working with younger players and setting an example that all were encouraged to follow.

”We know what he’s able of doing on the football field,” Atlanta Falcons coach Mike Smith related. ”But Tony is a mentor to so many players in that locker room. He’s not a man of many words, but when he comes to work, he comes to work. We always tell the new guys in the locker room, ‘See that man over there? Mimic what he’s doing.”’

Gonzalez’s influence has surely rubbed off on players like receiver Julio Jones, already a professional Bowler in just his 2nd season. Even Roddy White, who already was one of the NFL’s better receivers when Gonzalez was acquired by the Atlanta Falcons after 12 seasons in Kansas City, has picked up a thing or two since No. 88 arrived.

”I’d prefer to think I’ve helped them with their routine,” Gonzalez announced. ”I’m a big believer of routine. Yeah, you can talk of being great. When young guys come in, I ask them their goals. They all want to be Pro Bowl players. Well, how are you getting there You can’t just say you’re going to work conscientiously. That’s so ambiguous.”

His methods have sure paid off. Gonzalez has 1,242 receptions and 103 touchdown catches, 6th on the career list. This season, he led the Atlanta Falcons with 93 receptions for 930 yards and 8ouchdowns.

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