Antonio Garay join the NFL ranks back in 2003 as a 6th round draft pick for the Cleveland Browns. The same year that the Chargers picked up future standouts Antonio Gates, Stephen Cooper and Kris Dielman as undrafted free agents. Cooper and Dielman are now retired and Gates, while not past his prime, is certainly closer to the end of his career than he is to the beginning. Garay did not stand out in the NFL as fast as those three. Instead he faced an uphill battle trying to get on the active roster for a woeful Browns team. In 2006 and 2007 he played with Chicago Bears and helped them win the NFC Championship. However, he was cut by them in 2007 after recovering from an injury that occurred on an illegal block during the 2007 season. The Jets out him on their practice squad mid 2009 and that's where the Chargers would find him. The snapped him up as a potential replacement for their injury prone and soon to be retired All Pro NT Jamal Williams.
The Chargers kept Garay active for 2 games where he was a reserve in 2009, but that offseason there was a buzz about the veteran. Ogemdi Nwagbuo and Ian Scott were the two Nose Tackles that the Bolts used after Jamal Williams' injury and Garay beat both of them out. Scott was cut in June and Nwagbuo survived as a backup through the 2010. Garay was the man being counted on in the middle for the 2010 season. He shined in that role. He was active for every game and started 15 of them. He picked up 5.5 sacks, which was more than Jamal Williams ever accumulated in a season. It looked the Chargers had find a diamond in the rough.
In 2011, the accolades weren't coming as easy. Perhaps due to an injury to fellow veteran defensive lineman Luis Castillo and perhaps due to starting next to a rookie Corey Liuget on the other side, Garay didn't stand out as much. The defense didn't perform as well as it did in 2010 either and for a 3-4 defense the nose tackle can be a big part of its success or failure. There were some whisperings that this might happen before the 2011 season. Those 5.5 sacks were a bit of a fluke for the position. Many of them may have been coverage sacks more than Garay imposing his will. Although, there was evidence that he could dominate at the line. There were also some thoughts that he tired at the end of the season, which may be able to get addressed with more rotation work with young Cam Thomas.
For 2012, the flamboyant-haired, Hello Kitty car driving big man is back in the fold with a 2 year deal. His first real free agent contract that so many athletes seek. Give us your a vote on if you approve of Garay's performance and let us know in the comments what you think his future holds.