The Atlanta Falcons tight end is playing his second-to-last NFL game on Monday Night football against the 49ers. As a California native, Tony Gonzalez grew up watching the San Francisco 49ers and Oakland Raiders with only a handful of memories in Candlestick Park.
What really stands out from Candlestick Park was not a catch or touchdown, but a hit with a camera man. Tony Gonzalez ran into photographer Mickey Pfleger when the 49ers played the Chiefs in November, 2000.
"I caught the ball, but was pushed out of bounds and I went flying and ran into a guy taking pictures," Gonzalez said. "He hits the ground and was knocked out. I wanted to help him up but my teammates told me to get back in the huddle."
Pfleger was taken to the local hospital as he had a CT scan and MRI. A few days later, the CT scan revealed he had a large brain tumor. The photographer eventually had surgery in May of 2001, where he eventually was able to recover before passing away in 2010.
Gonzalez said the incident was a great blessing in disguise with what could've happened to Pfleger. He became close friends with the man before his passing.
"They would've never found this tumor if you didn't hit him," Gonzalez said. "If it didn't turn out this way, obviously bad stuff would happen. It's strange how the universe works as I believe in a higher power. A late hit flying into this guy [was for the better]."
For Monday night, about 20 people will make the trip from Southern California to see his final road game. Even though the Falcons will not be making the postseason this season, Gonzalez said there will be no regrets throughout his career.
The All-Pro tight end is looking forward to being with his family in Huntington Beach when his career is over.
"[My son] won a championship in school," Gonzalez said. "I'll never be able to see that again. I'll be there for my family. This is my last chance I'll be in the Bay Area and I'm excited about it."