<
>

Every day special as Gonzalez nears end

12/20/2013

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Since Tony Gonzalez played college football and basketball at Cal, a return trip to familiar territory always is special.

Such will be the case Monday night, when Gonzalez and his Atlanta Falcons visit San Francisco to play the 49ers.

"Obviously going back to the Bay-area -- went to (Cal) Berkeley out there -- that's where it all started for me," Gonzalez said. "It's nostalgic for me. Every time I go to Oakland or San Francisco, I see people on the sideline or in stands back from when I was out in that area. It's fun."

This will be the final road game for the California native, who will retire this year after 17 NFL seasons. It also will be the final regular-season game played at Candlestick Park.

"I was a big fan of the Raiders because I was down in L.A-Orange County, but we also watched a lot of the 49ers on television," Gonzalez said. "Seen Joe Montana drive, Jerry Rice, Brent Jones, the tight end out there, (John) Taylor, Roger Craig.

"It was some great teams, and a lot of fun to watch when I was a kid growing up."

Gonzalez said he has to get about 20 tickets for family and friends for Monday night's game. And he'll need even more for the season-finale against the Carolina Panthers at the Georgia Dome in two weeks. The Falcons are sure to pay tribute to the future Hall of Famer that day.

Gonzalez continues to take a business-as-usual approach daily as his career nears the end. The 37-year-old still tweaks some of his daily routine to make sure he is fresh for his final run.

"This week was the first week that I've ever done it in my whole career, where I'm stretching at night before I go to bed," he said. "Trying to get better. Trying to improve.

"And the ceiling here in the locker room is 11 feet. Yesterday, I made a bet with Roddy White, and he bet I couldn't touch it, because I haven't touched it in three years. ...I'm trying to do whatever I can to be the best player I can be, especially with these last two weeks."

Gonzalez was asked how he wants to be remembered as a player.

"I think (as) consistent," he said. "It's never been about numbers to me. It's never been about milestones or records. ...For the most part, it's been about that routine. And I want people to remember that about me: my routine; the way I approached it. Because that's what makes you great. The numbers and everything else are a byproduct of your routine.

"It's what I believe in. It's what I've studied. The greats -- Michael Jordan, Barry Sanders, Jerry Rice, Warren Buffett in business -- that’s what makes you great is having a great routine."

Gonzalez wouldn't reveal what the wager with White was, but he said there was cash involved. It would be a safe bet to say Gonzalez will win. Besides, he's soared to new heights throughout his career, so there's no reason for him to stop now.