Sunday is Tony Gonzalez Day in Atlanta

Tony Gonzalez recorded his 1,000th career catch last Sunday against the vaunted Steelers defense. The folks in Pittsburgh weren’t so happy to have Gonzalez attain this crowning achievement on their soil, giving him only a smattering of applause and even a few boos. To rectify this lack of fanfare for the occasion, the Falcons are marking Sunday’s home game against the Cardinals “Tony Gonzalez Day.”

Gonzalez told me Jerry Rice “reached out to welcome me (to the 1,000-catch club) on Twitter the other day,” which he thought was pretty cool. He also added that he was surprised he has been able to play this long. “Hard work and just taking care of myself has really paid off for me to be here,” he said. “And what an elite club it is with members like Jerry Rice and Cris Carter.” Gonzalez is the NFL’s all-time leader at the tight end position with 1,001 career receptions for 11,842 yards and 82 touchdowns.

Falcons TE Tony Gonzalez made his 1,000th career catch last week against the Steelers. (Keith Srakocic / Associated Press)

Tony Gonzalez Day also will be big for Clayton Jones, the winner of the tight end’s #88 Twitter contest, which was run in conjunction with the player’s nutrition company, All Pro Science. Jones was chosen at random from among contestants who tweeted about Gonzalez’s 1,000th catch.

I asked Gonzalez what the experience would be like for the contest winner. “I hope amazing,” Gonzalez laughed. “The APS staff and I have put a ton of time and thought into this and we’ve got a lot planned for him. We had thousands of people enter the contest on Twitter, and the winner gets to experience this for all of them.”

Jones and a guest, in addition to travel accommodations, were at Saturday’s final team walk-through practice, after which Jones and Gonzalez re-created the catch and then threw the ball around for a while. “I promise to stay in-bounds this time, so it counts,” Gonzalez joked before the walk-through. (Entering Week 1 with 999 career receptions, Gonzalez’s first catch of the game was brought back when it was ruled that he stepped out of bounds before he caught it; he caught another ball from Matt Ryan three plays later.)

After touring the Falcons’ facilities and meeting players and coaches Saturday, Gonzalez noted that Jones’ VIP treatment would continue at the game Sunday. “We’re just trying to make this something that they will never forget and really just thank them for their support of me and All Pro Science.”

On being able to make it to 1,000 catches, Gonzalez credits two things: “For me, the two most important aspects of my game are time watching film (the mental aspect) and the time in the weight room (the physical aspect).” He also credited proper nutrition as a key to longevity in the league. It was Gonzalez’s passion for all-natural health and nutrition that inspired him to start All Pro Science.

— Tiffany Shine

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