50 GREATEST GOLDEN BEARS - #36 - TONY GONZALEZ#36 - TONY GONZALEZ - TIGHT END (1994-1996)
I know what you're thinking. #36 is a little low for a future first-ballot NFL Hall of Famer. And yeah, maybe I'm docking Tony a bit for leaving after his junior season. Or maybe it's just that he played two of his three varsity years under Keith Gilbertson, who didn't understand what a weapon he had in #44.
We saw flashes of the Tight End of the Future in his sophomore season, in which Gonzalez caught 37 passes for 541 yards. Against Stanford that year, Tony had ten catches for 150 yards and a 23-yard touchdown reception. Late in that game, Tony lost a disputed fumble (he was down) that set up the Cardinal's winning score and mercifully ended the Gilbertson era.
It took Mooch and his West Coast offense to fully exploit Tony's skills as both an explosive run blocker and deep receiving threat. In his junior season of 1996, Gonzalez caught 46 passes for 699 yards and 5 touchdowns. He was named all-Pac 10 and first team All-America by the Football News and Sporting News magazines.
All the while, of course, Gonzalez was logging double duty as a starting forward on Cal's basketball team. In 1996-97 he developed an offensive game to complement his rugged rebounding and led the Golden Bears to a surprise berth in the Sweet 16.
You know the rest: Tony was drafted 13th overall by the Kansas City Chiefs in 1997 and will go down in history as the NFL's greatest tight end. He's also a very good guy who runs his own charitable foundation and lends his name and fame to a variety of worthy causes.