Joe's Sweet Sigs: Antonio Gates
Think defensive backs and linebackers had difficulty with Antonio Gates? Figuring out his autograph is equally challenging --- and frustrating --- for memorabilia collectors and football fans.
Gates figures to be a first-ballot Hall of Famer and is eligible for Canton in 2023 after spending his entire 16-year NFL career with the San Diego/Los Angeles Chargers. His 116 receiving touchdowns are the most for a tight end in NFL history.
Gates' backstory is one of the best of any player who's achieved greatness in his sport. Gates did not play college football but, rather, chose hoops. He helped lead Kent State University to the Elite Eight in the 2002 NCAA men's basketball tournament his junior year and was honorable mention All-American his senior year. The Chargers signed the 6-foot-4 Gates as an undrafted free agent, and within a couple of years the Chargers looked smart, as Gates had emerged as one of the game's best tight ends.
As for his autograph, which is seen regularly during our Ultimate Autographs live breaks on helmets and jerseys, it isn't the most legible. That said, it's big, bold and consistent. For me, that compensates a little for the head-scratching every time I see his autograph.
The "A" for Antonio looks more than an "M" and is followed by a long scribble. The "G" for Gates looks almost like a tidal wave. "Splashy," so to speak. Or maybe it's a big lower-case "G" starting on top of the "A." It could even pass for a capital "J." For sure, there's some attitude with the signature, particularly the "G," and I appreciate that. Another tiny scribble at the bottom finishes off the autograph.
In sum, not the best penmanship. But you know Gates' autograph when you see it. And when you see it after next year, you'll be seeing "HOF" next to it.
Strictly for rhyming purposes and the respect I have for the former Mid-American Conference power forward, I'd love to give 8's to Gates.
But I can't. Let's go with his height.
Sweet Swigs ranking: 6.4