As Tony Gonzalez stood on the visitor’s sideline at Arrowhead Stadium Sunday for the first time in the history of his 16-year NFL career, the former Kansas City Chiefs all-pro tight end looked in the stands and grinned.
As Tony Gonzalez stood on the visitor’s sideline at Arrowhead Stadium Sunday for the first time in the history of his 16-year NFL career, the former Kansas City Chiefs All-Pro tight end looked in the stands and grinned.
“Matt Ryan (the Atlanta Falcons quarterback) leaned over to me and said, ‘There are a lot of 88s (Gonzalez’ number with the Chiefs) in the stands,” said Gonzalez, who had a 7-yard touchdown reception Sunday in the Falcons’ 40-24 win over the Chiefs.
Gonzalez noticed the 88 jerseys when he walked out of the tunnel from the locker room for a pregame warm-up.
As he stood on the sideline, he leaned over to Ryan during the national anthem and said, “Look up there – that’s where you’re going to see the stealth bomber.
“I told him about the fans chanting ‘(Home) of the Chiefs!’ at the end of the anthem and Matt leaned over to me and said, ‘I’m never going to a movie with you – you’re giving away the ending.’”
Gonzalez took care of his teammates on the field with his five-reception, one-touchdown performance, and he made sure they left Kansas City with a smile on their faces and a full stomach as he had LC’s Bar-B-Q bring out ribs, burnt ends and pulled pork to, well, feed a football team.
“Tony told us he was going to get us some good Kansas City barbecue,” wide receiver Julio Jones said, “and he came through big time.”
Gonzalez, the Chiefs’ 1997 No. 1 draft pick, became the premier tight end in the history of the NFL during his playing days in Kansas City. He holds Chiefs’ franchise records for receptions (916) and touchdowns (76) and was a vital part of the community.
Every Christmas he would take underprivileged youngsters on shopping sprees and he spent countless hours working with a variety of charities.
“It was nice to look in the stands and see all those 88 jerseys,” he said to a massive throng of microphones and television cameras that surrounded his locker. “It was a different week, knowing I was coming home, coming back to Kansas City to play.
“The greatest fans in the NFL are here in Kansas City. We have great fans in Atlanta, too, but these fans are special.”
Even when they boo?
“Well, come on, I scored a touchdown against their team,” Gonzalez said, grinning. “When I caught that (touchdown) pass I had no intention of dunking the ball over the goal post.”
That was Gonzalez’ signature move for more than a decade in Kansas City.
“But Matt got the ball and stuck it in my chest and said, ‘Go dunk it.’ So I had to. It was not a sign of disrespect to the Chiefs or their fans. It just happened. Like I said, I had no plan of dunking in case I did score.”
Page 2 of 2 - Following the game, he met with former teammates Tony Richardson, Trent Green and Jason Dunn in the parking lot and they posed for photos like at a class reunion.
Gonzalez then made sure there was plenty of barbecue for his teammates and he made a point of greeting the fans who lined the entrance to the private parking area.
“It feels good to be home,” he said as he signed autographs.
The wild cheers indicated the feeling was mutual.