Beloved Charger Takes Key Step Toward Becoming First-Ballot Hall-of-Famer

Only one tight end has ever been a first-ballot Hall of Famer. Antonio Gates just took a big step toward becoming the second.

Dec 13, 2018; Kansas City, MO, USA; Los Angeles Chargers tight end Antonio Gates (85) catches a pass
Dec 13, 2018; Kansas City, MO, USA; Los Angeles Chargers tight end Antonio Gates (85) catches a pass / Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports
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It's the holidays, so let's keep things cheery for Chargers fans and avoid thinking about the current season.

For fans too young to remember the AFL Years or the Air Coryell era, there's an obvious pick for their favorite time to support the team — the mid-2000's, when the Chargers made the playoffs five times in a six-stretch, winning 11-plus games in four of those years.

Those were the most talented Chargers teams we've seen in a long time, and one fan-favorite from the era is now getting the recognition he deserves:

Chargers News: Antonio Gates Makes Hall of Fame Progress

Antonio Gates, one of the greatest tight ends in NFL history, has been named a Pro Football Hall of Fame finalist for the 2024 class. This is his first year of eligibility, meaning he's on track to potentially become a first-ballot entry.

And nobody in their right mind would deny that he deserves that honor.

Gates was the Chargers' leading receiver for four straight years from 2004 through 2007, also being named a first-team All-Pro in three straight seasons from 2004 through 2006.

In addition to that amazing peak, he also had impressive longevity. Playing 16 years with the Chargers (14 in San Diego, 2 in LA), Gates racked up a career 11,841 receiving yards with 116 touchdowns.

Gates trails only Tony Gonzalez (15,127) and Jason Witten (13,046) for the most yards by any tight end in NFL history, and on a per-game basis Gates actually has a slight edge over Witten. He also holds the record when it comes to touchdowns, beating out Gonzalez' 111 despite playing 34 fewer games.

Gonzalez is currently the only tight end in NFL history to earn a first-ballot HOF nod, but it's hard to argue that Gates doesn't deserve to be right behind him as the second.