Doc Five: The best two-sport college football/basketball players – No. 4 Tony Gonzalez

This offseason we will count down various topics from Monday through Friday, bringing you the top five of the important and definitely some not so important issues in college football. It's the Doc Five, every week until we will thankfully have actual games to discuss.



This list of greatest players who played both football and basketball in college is surprisingly strong. Donovan McNabb, Julius Peppers and Chris Chambers are three NFL Pro Bowlers who didn't make it. Neither did Super Bowl champion Antwaan Randle El or NBA slam dunk champion Nate Robinson.

The greatest tight end who has ever lived was a key part of a Cal basketball team that made the NCAA tournament sweet 16, and he can't even crack the top three.

Since Tony Gonzalez has set every major NFL tight end receiving record, and pretty much lapped the field in the process, it's almost like his college basketball career is an urban legend kept alive by his goalpost dunk touchdown celebration. But it was real, and at times spectacular.

Gonzalez shot better than 50 percent from the field in his three hoops seasons and averaged 6.4 points. That might not sound like much, but it likely would have been much better had football not gotten in the way.

His biggest basketball moment came against Villanova freshman Tim Thomas in the 1997 NCAA tournament. Gonzalez scored 23 points and was matched up most of the time by Cal coach Ben Braun on Thomas, a 6-10 future NBA lottery pick who scored 9,454 points in 13 NBA seasons. Thomas scored 11 points, and was held scoreless in the second half as Cal won and moved on to the sweet 16.

"I remember telling people, 'That guy's not going to be able to do anything against Gonzalez,'" Shareef Abdur-Rahim, a longtime NBA veteran who played with Gonzalez at Cal told Bay Area News Group. "People thought I was crazy, but I said, 'Gonzalez is going to dominate him.'

"I knew because I had faced him every day in practice. He was so much stronger than me, there was nothing I could do."

Gonzalez averaged 14.6 points per game over the final six games of that season. Again, that was the greatest tight end in NFL history just dabbling after football season was done.

Gonzalez, who played some NBA summer league ball in 2002, is just 6-5 so he was not ideal size to play down low in the NBA. But with his athletic ability and strength, it's not unfathomable that if had he concentrated on basketball at Cal he could have made the NBA.

No big deal. Gonzalez did fine with his career choice (and we're glad he's coming back for another year).

Previously on the Doc Five ...
No. 5, Jackie Robinson

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