(CNN)Tight end Antonio Gates, 39, announced his retirement from the NFL today.
Born on June 18, 1980, Gates was a former college basketball star who never played football while at Kent State. But, he caught the eye of scouts for the San Diego Chargers and was signed as an undrafted free agent in 2003.
He would go on to have one of the most illustrious careers for a tight end. Across 16 seasons, he played in 236 games and had 955 receptions, 11,841 receiving yards and 116 touchdowns.
"After 16 seasons in the NFL, 16 seasons as a Charger, eight Pro Bowl appearances and many records broken, I find it hard to officially put this statement out and retire from the game of football," Gates said in a statement.
"I never dreamed that I would play this game of football so long or how fortunate I would be to play it with just one organization."
Gates holds the record for receiving the most touchdowns for tight ends in NFL history, making him seventh among all players in league history. He was selected to the Pro Bowl for eight straight seasons from 2004 to 2011.
Gates was named as a finalist for the NFL All-Time Team, and he was named to the NFL All-Decade Team for the 2000s.
Since Gates did not play during the 2019 NFL season, his eligibility for the Pro Football Hall of Fame comes in 2023, according to the NFL. And, he is a lock to be a first ballot Hall of Famer.
"Antonio was an unselfish player who had the ability to do just about everything you can think of on a football field," Chargers coach Anthony Lynn said in a statement.
"Run precise routes. Pick up a key block. Catch better than a receiver. You always had to account for #85's whereabouts and still, knowing all this, he managed to catch more touchdowns than any tight end to ever play the game. But it wasn't until I had the privilege of coaching him that I saw his most important skill: leadership. His teammates always were seeking his guidance. They just wanted to be around him. And, to a man, no questions asked, they would follow him. Combine all these factors; may as well start fitting Antonio for a gold jacket right now."
Gates said that he will remain with the Chargers just in a different capacity. He will be helping with the team's community engagement initiatives and for public facing events, he said in a statement.
"I'm looking forward to beginning the next chapter of my career and am grateful for the opportunity to be back around the team and our fans," Gates said.
"Thank you to everyone who has been part of this remarkable journey with me. I can't wait to see what's next."