Tony Gonzalez enters Pro Football Hall of Fame with old foes

CANTON, Ohio — At one end of the room sat Tony Gonzalez. All the way across it was Ed Reed.

Sometimes in the past, that’s as close to each other as the two new Pro Football Hall of Famers cared to be.

Same thing for Champ Bailey and Ty Law when it came to covering Gonzalez, the game-changing tight end and matchup nightmare for defensive backs.

They’re all part of the class of 2019 that will be inducted Saturday night. On Friday, they spoke about each other — and the honor of entering the football shrine together.

“It was a hassle dealing with Tony,” said Reed, a five-time All-Pro for Baltimore as a ball-hawking safety and member of the NFL 2000s All-Decade Team, as were Gonzalez, Bailey and Law. “Tony was tough. You needed somebody else to help you. I’d tell Terrell Suggs, ‘You got to hit him before you pass rush.’

“Tony was crafty, big, tough to get around, a basketball guy.”

True. Gonzalez was a two-sport star at Cal. Clearly he chose the right profession, making six All-Pro teams, catching more passes (1,325) than anyone except Jerry Rice, and becoming the most accomplished tight end in NFL history.

Entering the hall with three exceptional defensive backs was striking for Gonzalez, whose ability to outrun linebackers and outmuscle or even outjump safeties and cornerbacks made him a dominant performer for 17 seasons.

“Ed was the only safety (of the three), and he was a top guy,” Gonzalez said. “I loved going against him and seeing how I stacked up. I won some and lost some.

“I went the most against Champ, twice a year, because the Broncos would match him against me a lot. Man, that was tough.

“Ty was my teammate for a while and I learned a lot, how hard he worked at the game.”

Also to be enshrined Saturday are Kevin Mawae, a dominant center for 16 seasons, Johnny Robinson, Gil Brandt and the late Broncos owner Pat Bowlen.

Barry Wilner is an Associated Press writer.

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