Antonio Gates did not play college football before embarking on a Hall of Fame career in the NFL, but Nick Saban apparently knew when Gates was in high school that he was destined for gridiron greatness.
Gates officially announced his retirement from the NFL yesterday at age 38. Today, he appeared on “The Dan Patrick Show” and recounted a conversation he had with Saban over two decades ago.
Back then, Gates was a two-sport high school star. He originally enrolled at Michigan State with the intention of playing basketball and football, but when Saban, then the MSU football coach, balked at him playing both sports, Gates transferred.
It turns out, Saban had told Gates during his recruitment that he would be a future first-round pick in the NFL, even though the massive athlete preferred basketball.
"He said you are a first-round pick… you're what NFL teams are looking for. … It blindsided me, because basketball was my life." – Antonio Gates on what then-Michigan State coach Nick Saban told him during the recruiting process. Gates didn't play college football. (@dpshow)
— Andrew Perloff (@andrewperloff) January 15, 2020
As the story famously goes, Gates went to a junior college before playing college basketball at Kent State. Gates was a star for the Golden Flashes, but football eventually became his calling.
Signed by the San Diego Chargers as an undrafted free agent in 2003, Gates wound up playing 16 seasons for the franchise. In a few years, he’ll be enshrined in Canton.
Nick Saban foresaw it all.