Tony Gonzalez, Staying In The Moment

From The Associated Press

Kansas City tight end Tony Gonzalez, who celebrates TDs with his signature dunk over the cross bar, needs just 50 yards to become the all-time yardage leader for tight ends.

“I told them I didn’t think you had to be a violent person to play football,” recalled Tony Gonzalez. “He said, ‘What are you talking about? Of course you have to be violent to play this game.’ I told him I didn’t consider myself a violent person.”

Eleven years later, on the verge of becoming the most productive tight end in NFL history, Gonzalez seems to have put that argument forever to rest, and ignited another: Is he the greatest tight end ever?

On Sunday against Denver, he needs just 50 yards to overtake Shannon Sharpe’s record of 10,060 yards receiving. Already in his possession are the tight end records for touchdown catches (67) and receptions (835).

The rookie-laden Chiefs are 0-3, and the possibility is growing that in spite of all his personal achievements, Gonzalez may never play in a Super Bowl. So he draws from his study of the Zen philosophy of staying in the moment.

“I try not to look ahead. When you do that, you lose focus,” he said. “And then you’re not giving yourself a chance to enjoy the moment.

“You get out of life what you put into it. If you put in peace and love and happiness and enthusiasm and courage and humility, you get that back.”

A couple of years ago he took an interest in nutrition and became a vegetarian.

While rooming with Gonzalez in training camp, rookie tight end Brad Cottam learned two things.

“He’s always working,” said Cottam. “You see him stay late after practice, catching extra passes, running extra drills, doing the little things coaches make rookies do.

“And he’s always reading. Did you know he’s going back and tracing all the food groups back to their source?”

Even in a room filled with robust young athletes, Gonzalez’s lean and finely chiseled physique stands out. His devotion to training and eating right, along with plenty of luck, has allowed him to miss only two games his entire career, sustaining excellence long after attaining excellence.

In 2000, when he was 24, he totaled 1,203 yards in receptions. In 2007, when he was 31, he totaled 1,172.

“He seems to get better every year,” said teammate Patrick Surtain. “Tony looks like he could keep going until he’s 50.”

Is he the greatest tight end? Sharpe had more downfield speed. And some critics will say Gonzalez never won a championship.

“No matter what people say about me, I’m still going to keep doing what got me here and keep trying to tweak it to get better,” he said. “When you start reading too much about yourself or hearing too much about yourself, it’s hard not to let it go to your head.

“Fortunately, I’m around people — my grandmother, my mom, my brother — who are not going to let me get caught up in my own hype.”

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