Gates in line to set record

Sometimes I forget Antonio Gates didn’t play college football. He enrolled in Michigan State University out of high school hoping to play football and basketball, but then-coach Nick Saban said he couldn’t do both.

Gates chose the hardwood, bouncing around to a handful of junior colleges before becoming a star at Kent State. He went undrafted in the 2003 NFL Draft, but made his way onto the 53-man roster for the Chargers. Now, he’s only inches from history.

With five more receptions, Gates will reach 587 for his career, a career spent entirely with San Diego. His fifth catch will also make him the franchise’s all-time leader in receptions.

Four years ago it seemed Gates would set the record before 2011, but a string of injuries has kept the tight end sidelined for parts of the last several seasons. Even this season, Gates hasn’t been injury-free. He’s missed three games, but is still tied for the team lead in catches with Vincent Jackson.

Now, he’s at full health, at least as healthy as he’s been in a long time. And with five more catches, which could come this Sunday night against the Ravens, Gates will enter the record books.

Not bad for a guy who didn’t play college football.