FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. — Tony Gonzalez remembers talking to Michael Strahan after the former New York Giants defensive lineman won a Super Bowl title in his final game.
Talk about going out in style.
"That's the way you want to do it," Gonzalez said Thursday. "That's every athlete's dream. I don't care what sport it is. You'd love to win a championship and leave. That's where I'm at now."
It took him 16 years to finally win a playoff game.
Now, he's two victories away from a Super Bowl championship with the Atlanta Falcons, two wins away from going out the same way Strahan did.
"There's no doubt I could play this game another three years if I wanted to, and at a high level too," the 36-year-old Gonzalez insisted. "But there comes a point in your career where you've gotten everything you ever wanted from this game."
Everything except a ring.
"Really, the only reason I played the last couple of years was for an opportunity like this," Gonzalez said. "Now that it's presented itself, I feel closure coming on. But there's more closure to take care of. It's about winning this week, and winning the Super Bowl."
The top-seeded Falcons (14-3) will host the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday in the NFC championship game, looking to reach the Super Bowl for just the second time in franchise history. Even though Gonzalez has not fully committed to retirement, there's a definite sense in the Atlanta locker room of wanting to give him the ultimate going-away gift.
He's given so much to the game, catching more passes than anyone in NFL history except Jerry Rice. He's given so much to the Falcons over the last four years, working with younger players and setting an example that all were encouraged to follow.