Falcons' Tony Gonzalez talks longevity, Ronde Barber
As Tony Gonzalez walked off the field at the Louisiana Superdome last Monday night, a certain rising young star stopped him to ask what everyone wants to know.
Saints TE Jimmy Graham, named to the Pro Bowl this week in just his second season, had to ask Gonzalez: What’s his secret?
“I get that question a lot,” said Gonzalez, the Falcons tight end and likely Hall of Famer who meets the Bucs on Sunday.
“It’s not really something I can sum up in a few words. I guess, to put it simply, it’s hard work, perseverance (and) you have to have to mindset of total conviction and a passion for the game. And you have to kind of be obsessed. It’s borderline crazy. Not everybody can do it. Most people can’t do it. You have to be obsessed with being the best player you can be. That means you’re going to put in a lot more work than the next guy. That means before practice, during practice, after practice. There’s really no offseason.”
The Bucs can attest. Gonzalez has been a matchup nightmare for Tampa Bay, which has opted to use CB Ronde Barber – also a 15th year veteran – against Gonzalez in games against rival Atlanta.
Gonzalez -- who talked to us on a conference call earlier this week -- and Barber share a mutual admiration.
“We came in (to the league) together, so obviously we’ve had a chance to go against each other a lot,” Gonzalez said of Barber. “I respect him so much because, when you talk about perseverance and being able to stick around and play at such a level like he does for a long time, obviously I know first-hand how hard it is.
“It’s not an easy thing to do. It has little to do with athletic ability. It has more to do with mindset, and I really respect him for that. He’s always in the right place at the right time. You’re looking at the film and you say, ‘How did he make that play?’ It’s probably not even in their defensive package. But he saw something and hit the hole and made the play. It’s results and this guy gets results. It’s a privilege to go against someone like him.”
Barber and the Bucs have had mixed results against Gonzalez. He had just two catches for 18 yards in the teams’ first meeting this season. But he had an 8-catch, 72-yard performance last season and caught nine passes for 83 yards in a meeting in 2009.