"Parting is such sweet sorrow." It appears that is exactly what Atlanta Falcons tight-end Tony Gonzalez is feeling.
The Panthers-Falcons game will definitely be bittersweet tomorrow, as it will mark the last time Gonzalez will play in an NFL game.
He's finally made the decision to retire after more than 15 years of success on the gridiron.
However, the Washington Post reports that the 13-time Pro Bowl veteran is having a much more difficult time with the finality than he ever expected.
Back in March, the Falcons announced Gonzalez would be returning for the 2013-14 season. Even then, it was clear Gonzalez would retiring and he was '100 percent certain' of the decision.
But, as time progressed and the big day drew closer, Gonzalez began to have more reservations about his last game.
“I’d have to cross that bridge when I get to it, but right now I don’t have any plans,” Gonzalez said. “I know for sure I won’t be on an opening day for roster anybody. I’m going to— this is it. This is it.”
While tomorrow's game against the Panthers won't change anything for the 4-11 Falcons, the main focal point will be the tribute and dedication to Gonzalez.
The Falcons have also announced that Gonzalez will be presented a honorary helmet representing both teams he played for throughout his 17-season tenure in the NFL. A picture of the honorary helmet was posted on the Falcons' official Twitter timeline.
The Falcons also took to Twitter to share a number of memorable photos throughout Gonzalez's previous seasons with the team.
Gonzalez was entered the NFL in 1997 as a 1st round draft pick. He made his NFL debut with the Kansas Chiefs where he played until 2008. He was then traded to the Atlanta Falcons for the 2009 NFL season. As of Week 15 this season, Gonzalez has a cumulative career total of 1,313 receptions, 15,008 receiving yards, and 110 touchdowns. He was named NFL 'Tight End of the Year' in 2000 and 2003.
The numbers definitely don't lie, and they tell a laudable story of success where Gonzalez's career is concerned. Gonzalez's last game is expected to be quite special and emotionally driven. More than 40 of his family members and close friends are expected to be present at the Falcons' season finale.
Image via Twitter | Tony Gonzalez