SAN DIEGO -- Antonio Gates recalls Nick Saban telling him hed one day be an NFL first-round draft pick and that he could play both football and his beloved basketball at Michigan State.Neither happened.Yet heres Gates, the former basketball star from Kent State, needing three touchdown catches to break Tony Gonzalezs NFL record of 111 for a tight end.Being 6-foot-4 and weighing 250 pounds, Gates knows he made the right choice in going to the NFL rather than trying to pursue an NBA career.Still, for every pass hes caught from Drew Brees, Doug Flutie, Philip Rivers and even LaDainian Tomlinson, Gates always has basketball in the back of his mind.Thats the part thats kind of like the chip on my shoulder when I play, Gates said. In my mind, Id be thinking, `I wish I would have given it a chance, to see what would have happened. But its hard to see it because of the success over time playing football. Its kind of hard to say now.But I think thats what drives me still to this day is because I know I didnt give my heart a chance to do what I wanted to do. So Im like, `OK, well, somebodys going to pay for it. If Ive got to play 15, 18 years, to get all the records, thats what drives you, when people cant see you for what you were.Gates, 36, joined the Chargers as a rookie free agent in 2003, a year after leading Kent State to the Elite Eight in the NCAA Tournament. He caught his first touchdown pass on Nov. 9, 2003.It was against Minnesota. From Doug Flutie, Gates said. Drew Brees was here and I guess he kind of didnt get off to a good start and Flutie got in the game and I scored a touchdown.Brees regained his starting job but left after 2005, and Rivers became the starter.Rivers and Gates have connected on 82 touchdown passes, the most between a quarterback and tight end. Gates 109 TD catches rank him seventh all-time.Rivers first start was opening night in 2006 at Oakland. In the fourth quarter, he hit Gates on a 4-yard corner route. Rivers threw only 11 passes that night, two to Gates.I was fired up, obviously, to throw a touchdown in my first start, Rivers said. I remember going up to him and saying, `Hey, thats the first of many. And he was kind of like, `Get out of here. I havent got a ball all day. I dont want to hear that.Now you look back and however many its been between he and I, and hes right there at 109. It is special. I want it for him more than anything, and I think he wants it as well. Certainly when given the opportunity Im going to try my hardest to get him into the end zone three more times, at least.When Gates joined the Chargers he hadnt played a down of football since his senior season at Detroits Central High. Saban recruited Gates to Michigan State. Gates left after a year because Saban wouldnt let him play basketball.We didnt see eye to eye. I felt he sat in front of my momma and my father and said I could do both, said Gates, who had grown up idolizing Michigans Fab Five. I told him, `I came here to do both. He said, `No, football. `After playing at two junior colleges, Gates ended up starring in hoops at Kent State. Along the way he was noticing that people he knew were getting drafted high by NFL teams.Among them was Dwight Smith -- my homeboy from high school -- who went to Akron and was a third-round pick of Tampa Bay in 2001. Smith had two interceptions of Oaklands Rich Gannon, the league MVP, in the Bucs Super Bowl win at San Diegos Qualcomm Stadium in January 2003.Thats how it started, Gates said.He mentioned former Michigan State players T.J. Duckett, Charles Rogers, Julius Peterson, Dimitrius Underwood and Plaxico Burress. All first-rounders.Wait a minute, something aint adding up, Gates said. This is my circle and everybodys getting drafted.So now Nick Saban, what he had told me, started to make sense at that point, Gates said. Because he told me I was a first-rounder. He swore up and down Id go first round if I just played football. I was like, `Uh, I dont want to hear that. You just want me out there. I dont want to hear that, Nick Saban. You just dont want me on the basketball court.But I loved basketball. That was my heart. Its like going to the prom, man. Youve got two girls and you love one and she dont show you no attention and you have to go out of your way. Youre trying to get her attention. And then heres a girl whos just wanting to go to prom with you: `Love you, like your height. You smell good, ` Gates said with a laugh. Thats how football was. Everything was great. `You tall, you fast. You big. And basketball was like, `Uh, can you do it at this level? It was always the ifs ands and buts when it came to basketball. Golly, no matter what I do, I average 20 points a game and they were like, `Do it against Kentucky. I had 27 on that. I had 33 on Boston College. `But can you do it consistently on this level?Football was like, nothing I did was bad. Ultimately it wears on you. It wears on your confidence.Gates had a daughter at the time and made what he felt was the safest choice: the NFL. All these years later, hes certainly erased the doubters.I think its great. Im not surprised, either, said Gonzalez, who plans to congratulate Gates via Twitter when he breaks the touchdown mark.The two were division rivals for six seasons when Gonzalez was with the Kansas City Chiefs.He pushed me to the limit to be the best tight end I could be, said Gonzalez, a studio analyst for CBS NFL Today.Id like to think I did the same. There was always that competition of who could outperform who in the game.Gonzalez also played college hoops, at California, and like Gates picked the NFL over a possible NBA career.I love that he made the right decision, Gonzalez said. With the legacy hes set, hes right there with the other guy from that franchise, Kellen Winslow, two of best to ever put on cleats and play the tight end position.---Follow Bernie Wilson on Twitter at http://twitter.com/berniewilson---For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL [url=https://www.wholesalejerseysaaa.com/]Wholesale Jerseys China[/url] . Detroit and Boston are deadlocked, 1-1, and Tigers manager Jim Leyland could be forgiven if he was caught rationalizing instead of dissecting how his club could blow a 5-1 lead late in Game 2. [url=https://www.wholesalejerseysaaa.com/]Wholesale Jerseys 2022[/url] . 8 Kansas to a 64-63 win over Texas Tech on Tuesday night. The freshman from Vaughan, Ont. 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Second to Sprinter Sacre at Cheltenham and Sandown, the eight-year-old was reverting to hurdles at a track at which he has had plenty of success and Ruby Walsh had the Willie Mullins-trained 13/8 favourite in front from flag-fall.Enjoying himself in front, he always held a handy lead and had enough left in the tank when Le Grand Luce tried to make a late bid. Alex De Larredya was third, with the Paul Nicholls-trained Ptit Zig the first of the British raiders back in fourth in the Grade Two contest. Nicky Hendersons Simonsig was a big disappointment, finishing last.Mullins son and assistant Patrick said: Id say softer ground and a step up in trip suited him. Two miles on soft ground - hes just not as quick as Sprinter Sacre.Soft ground is the key to him and now thats he settling better, we can probably step him up in trip and it opens more options for next year.Thee French Champion Hurdle is three miles.dddddddddddd I dont know if hell be asked to go over far.Im not sure. Well bring him home, see how he is and dad will decide then.Mullins and Walsh were completing a big-race double having taken the Grade Three Prix Questarabad with Triumph Hurdle third Footpad.The four-year-old just got home by a short neck from the 3-5 favourite Device as he bounced back from a fall at Aintree.Mullins added: It was a brilliant ride by Ruby. The horse never went a yard in Aintree and had a bad fall. He nursed him into the race and didnt go for broke until he got over the last. The jockey made the difference.A fabulous day after weve had a couple of near misses - Wicklow Brave second in Chester and Shaneshill second in America, so its fantastic. Sky Tickets Fast, secure racing tickets: Exclusive racing offers near you ' ' '