RIVER FALLS, Wis. – RIVER FALLS, Wis. -- Saving a man's life has brought Tony Gonzalez praise from the current president and possibly the next one.
The Kansas City Chiefs Pro Bowl tight end met Sen. Barack Obama during a campaign stop in California, and the Democratic candidate for President congratulated him for stopping a man from choking to death.
About the same time, Gonzalez opened his mail and read a letter from President and Mrs. Bush.
"The President said, `Thank you for helping out your fellow human being,"' Gonzalez said Saturday. "He said he and Laura wished me good luck in the upcoming season."
As a nine-time Pro Bowler who needs less than 200 yards receiving to set the all-time record for tight ends, Gonzalez has long been accustomed to compliments. He already owns the NFL record for his position with 820 catches and 66 touchdowns. But coming to the rescue of a man in a California restaurant on July 3 seems to have added to his fame in ways he would never have dreamed.
"I got e-mails from people all over, literally," he said. "Friends of mine in Europe saw the story and got in touch with me."
Gonzalez was having dinner with his wife, brother and baby daughter in Huntington Beach, Calif., when Ken Hunter, sitting at the next table, got a piece of meat lodged in his throat.
Hunter's companion began screaming, "He can't breathe, he can't breathe," and Gonzalez looked around to see. He noticed the man was turning blue, and then saw that everybody in the crowded restaurant was just staring "wide-eyed," and not trying to help.
So Gonzalez, although he'd never been trained in the Heimlich maneuver, jumped to his feet, wrapped his long, sinewy arms around the stricken man and began to squeeze. After a few seconds, the meat popped out and Hunter, a shipping company manager in Huntington Beach, recovered.
"Tony saved my life," Hunter later told The Associated Press.
"I never anticipated what an impact this would have," said Gonzalez, who arrived in River Falls on Thursday for the Chiefs' training camp.
"But now, looking back, I think with all the negative stuff that's in the media these days about NFL players and athletes in general, when a story like that comes out, it really grabs people's attention. I know it was an incredible situation the way it came down. I believe things happen for a reason. Hopefully, there'll be a domino affect."
Chiefs president Carl Peterson was traveling in Europe when his star tight end made news off the football field.
"Nothing surprises me about the abilities of Tony Gonzalez," Peterson said. "Thank God he was there, in the right place at the right time and reacted the way he did. The story was all over the world."
Shortly afterward, Peterson happened to run into Steve Tisch, part owner of the New York Giants, in France.
"We hugged each other and right away he said, `Hey, how about your tight end saving that guy's life?"'