The New England Patriots are just 87 days away from defending their sixth championship and continuing the quest for their NFL-record seventh championship. New England’s recent run of success is unparalleled in the NFL history, and it wouldn’t have been possible without number 87 himself, Rob Gronkowski. The four-time All-Pro and three-time Super Bowl champion hung up the cleats in the off-season but will be remembered as one of the all-time greats in NFL history.
87 Days to Kickoff: Rob Gronkowski
Rob Gronkowski initially entered the NFL as New England’s second-round pick in the 2010 NFL Draft. The big tight end missed his Senior season at Arizona State, causing his draft stock to fall.
New England decided Gronkowski was worth the risk, and that decision immediately paid off. Starting in all 16 games as a rookie, Gronkowski recorded 42 receptions for 546 yards and 10 touchdowns. His ten touchdown receptions were tied for most ever by a rookie tight end. Gronkowski took his play to an elite level in 2011. Playing in all 16 games, Gronkowski recorded 90 receptions for 1,327 yards and 18 total touchdowns. His touchdown total led the league and set the record for most touchdowns by a tight end.
Gronkowski’s 2012 began right where his 2011 left off, as the big tight end recorded 55 receptions for 790 yards and 11 touchdowns through the seasons’ first 10 games. However, Gronkowski suffered a forearm injury in New England’s 59-24 win over the Indianapolis Colts. Gronkowski came back for the playoff run but re-injured his arm early against the Houston Texans in the AFC Divisional Round. Over that same off-season, Gronkowski underwent back surgery and multiple forearm surgeries. Gronkowski managed just seven games in 2013 before injury struck again, as T.J. Ward tore Gronkowski’s ACL on a low hit. After battling through so much injury, nobody knew if Gronkowski could come back and be the same guy.
Gronkowski the Champion
Gronkowski proved the doubters wrong and returned better than ever in each of the next two seasons. Recording a combined 154 receptions for 2,300 yards and 23 touchdowns, Gronkowski earned First-Team All-Pro honors in both seasons while helping New England take home their first Super Bowl since 2004.
Gronkowski suffered another back injury in 2016 but returned to All-Pro form in 2017. Playing in 14 games, Gronkowski recorded 69 receptions for 1,084 yards and eight touchdowns. After threatening retirement in the 2018 off-season, Gronkowski looked notably slower in the 2018 regular season. Fighting through back and ankle injuries, Gronkowski finished the year with 47 receptions for 682 yards and three touchdowns.
However, he still finished his season on a high note, as the Patriots took home yet another Super Bowl title. While the defense was the star of the show, Gronkowski made the catch of the game on Super Bowl LIII’s lone touchdown drive.
Growing Up Gronk
Gronkowski was born in Amherst, New York, on May 14, 1989. One of five brothers, the Gronkowski family moved to the Buffalo area for the majority of Rob’s childhood. Gronkowski’s athletic prowess was on display from a young age, as the future great earned All-Western New York first-team honors at tight end as a Junior in high school.
Gronkowski spent three years playing collegiate football with the University of Arizona. Gronkowski quickly became one of the top tight ends in college football, recording 75 receptions for 1,197 yards and 16 touchdowns through his first two years in the NCAA. However, Gronkowski suffered a back injury while working out, costing him the entirety of the 2009 season. In 2008, Gronkowski earned Third-Team All-American honors as well as First-Team tight end honors on the All-Pac 10 team.
Gronkowski is far from the only athlete in his family, although he’s easily had the most success. Three of his brothers – Dan, Chris, and Glenn – spent varying amounts of time bouncing around the NFL. Interestingly enough, Dan Gronkowski actually spent a portion of the 2011 season with the New England Patriots while Glenn Gronkowski spent time on New England’s practice squad. Gordie Jr., the oldest brother, pursued a career in baseball, spending six years playing minor league baseball.
Gronkowski currently owns a laundry list of tight end records, including but not limited to postseason receiving yards (1,163), postseason receiving touchdowns (12), most seasons with 10+ touchdown receptions (five), most 1,000+ yard seasons (four), and most single-season touchdown receptions.