Levine Toilolo looks to fill big shoes


Sep 22, 2013; Miami Gardens, FL, USA; Atlanta Falcons tight end Levine Toilolo (80) celebrates his touchdown catch with tight end Tony Gonzalez (88) in the second half against the Miami Dolphins at Sun Life Stadium. Miami won 27-23. Robert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports

Levine Toilolo has some big shoes to fill if he wants to make Falcons fans forget about Tony Gonzalez.

The second-year Stanford grad is the heir apparent for the Hall of Famer’s tight end spot on the Falcons offense.

And it appears Toilolo used last year as a chance to study the intangibles that helped the now-retired Gonzalez be a 14-time Pro Bowler, telling the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that Gonzalez’s work ethic showed him that it takes more than natural talent to be an all-time great.

"“Just to see him come out every day — he’d be in the weight room stretching before practice and getting his body ready. He’d be out here after practice when everyone else is coming in, working on getting in and out of his breaks, catching passes. Someone who has been to that many Pro Bowls and he’s still working that hard — that definitely left an impression.”"

Granted, his natural talent will come in handy, too. The 6’8” Toilolo will be replacing one of Matt Ryan’s favorite targets, who caught 83 passes last year for a team-leading eight TD receptions. Toilolo caught 11 passes last year with two TDs. He now trails Gonzalez by a mere 1,314 career receptions and 109 career TDs. Toilolo will probably need more than next season to surpass Gonzalez.

Whether he’s TGII is to be determined. But he appears to have the brains to go with the brawn to take on the challenge. I met Toilolo briefly during the draft night party at the Georgia Dome. I quickly took away two things: (1) He is a very big man, and seems even bigger when you are standing next to him in an elevator and (2) He seems to be a very nice guy and congenial with the fans, as shown here with my 11-year-son, Parker. If he can produce on the field and remains the same fan-friendly guy he appears to be, Levine Toilolo can quickly become a Falcon fan favorite. We’ll never forget Tony Gonzalez. But it sure would be nice to add another player to remember.

Falcons TE Levine Toilolo stands with 11-year-old Falcon fan Parker Gibbons on the draft night party at the Georgia Dome.