For five seasons, Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan had arguably the greatest tight end to ever step on the field at his disposal. Ryan entered the league in 2008, and Tony Gonzalez was traded to Atlanta by the Kansas City Chiefs the following year for a second-round pick.
What Tony Gonzalez meant to the early stages of Matt Ryan’s career cannot go unnoticed. He was a valuable asset not only on the field, but off of it for a young Matt Ryan.
On the second day of training camp, Matt Ryan told reporters what Tony Gonzalez meant to his career.
“He was automatic. One of my best friends that I’ve ever played with, and meant so much to me as a person, and as a friend,” Ryan said, via The Falcoholic’s Jeanna Thomas. “He taught me so much about what it is to be a professional, but as far as playing with him, I mean, he was just incredibly violent. If it was third-and-10 or less, we were going in his direction and he was making plays. They knew we were going in his direction and he was still making plays.”
Gonzalez wasn’t just a reliable target for Ryan in those third-down situations.
“Same thing in the red area, he had so many touchdowns for us that were either double-teamed, sometimes triple-teamed where he had the ability to track the ball, catch the ball with strong hands, be able to come down through contact and maintain possession better than probably anybody that’s ever been able to do it,” Ryan said. “So, it was a blast playing with him for the amount of years that I did, and I’m thankful that I had that opportunity. I’m just so happy for Tony, that he’s recognized as a first-ballot Hall of Famer, as he should be.”
Ryan was asked for his thoughts on facing those same situations after Tony Gonzalez retired.
“I love our other guys, but Tony was different,” Ryan said. “That’s not a slight on anybody. This is a first-ballot Hall of Famer that, from my first year of playing with him, he would always tell me that he’s open. And I would go back and watch the film, and he was completely covered and I was like ‘What are you talking about, man?’ and he was like, ‘No, if you just put it in this one spot, it would be perfect.’
“And it took me a while to develop that trust to let it rip and just throw in that spot, but he was right, he was open. If you could deliver the ball to the spot that he could make a play, he didn’t let you down.”
The 2019 Pro Football Hall of Fame Enshrinement Ceremony takes place on Aug. 3, 2019 at 7 p.m. You can watch it on ESPN or NFL Network.