Entrance into the NFL
Before his rookie season, Gates had not played organized football since his senior year in high school. Gates wanted to go to Michigan State under then (football) coach Nick Saban and play both sports, but Saban wanted him to play only football, not basketball. Basketball was his favorite sport, and he switched to Eastern Michigan University to play basketball. He played there part of a season, subsequently played at two junior colleges and eventually landed at Kent State University in Northeast Ohio. Gates spent two seasons as a Golden Flashes power forward, where he led the team to an Elite Eight spot in 2002 and to the MAC championship game his last season there. After being told by scouts that he was too much of a "tweener" (6'4") to make the NBA, Gates arranged a workout in front of NFL scouts. Although he had not played football in four years, San Diego recognized his potential and signed him to a contract.
After finishing a solid 2003 rookie season, catching 24 passes for 389 yards and two scores, he was picked by many experts to have a breakout season in 2004. That year, only his second season in the NFL, Gates became quarterback Drew Brees' favorite target, finishing the season with 81 receptions for 964 yards and 13 touchdowns. On December 19, Gates tied the NFL season record for touchdowns by a tight end (12) in a 21-0 win over the Cleveland Browns, and he went on to break that record in an overtime loss to the Indianapolis Colts on December 26. Gates was selected to the 2005 Pro Bowl and caught a TD pass from Colts' quarterback Peyton Manning to help the AFC to a 38-27 victory. Additionally, Gates was on the receiving end of a 33 yard pass from teammate Drew Brees in a flea-flicker play selected by fans online.
On August 23, 2005, after holding out for a contract extension, Gates inked a six-year deal worth up to $24 million with the San Diego Chargers.
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Fumble Recovery Stats
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