Some are predicting that he will become the best to ever play tight end in the NFL. Those who don’t think he’s going to be the best ever think that he will be one of the best ever. There’s no doubting that Rob Gronkowski of the New England Patriots is one of the league’s most dominant players and it looks like that will be a continuing trend for years to come. The combination of Gronkowski with elite All Pro quarterback Tom Brady is a fatal recipe for defenses around the league.
Gronkowski was born in Amherst, NY a suburb of Buffalo into a family full of athleticism and talent. Rob’s dad Gordon Gronkowski played football at Syracuse and his two older brothers Chris and Dan both received scholarships to the University of Maryland for football, later reaching the NFL. Rob attended Williamsville North High School, a big rival of my old high school Niagara Wheatfield, and put up huge numbers. As a junior Gronkowski recorded 36 receptions accounting for 648 yards and 7 touchdowns. He didn’t just play offense but also was a standout on the defensive side of the ball with 73 tackles and 6 sacks. His impressive junior season led him to be named an All-Western New York first team recipient and second team All-State player.
After his junior year in 2006 Gronkowski moved to Pennsylvania and attended Woodland Hills High School, picking right up where he left off. By season’s end he earned countless awards such as Super Prep All-American, Associated Press Class 4-A all-state player and was named a member of the Pittsburgh Post Gazette’s “Fabulous 22.” Gronkowski was recruited by multiple big name schools but ended up deciding to attend Arizona. Rob was familiar with Arizona after his brother Chris transferred from Maryland to Arizona following his sophomore season.
Gronkowski’s freshman season at Arizona continued his standout performances. “Big Rob,” as his teammates called him, recorded 28 receptions for over 500 yards and 6 touchdowns as a freshman earning him All American status among the nation’s freshman. The success continued during the 2008 season with a team high 10 touchdown receptions, even after missing the first three games of the season. Gronkowski missed almost all of the 2009 season but was still a very sought after talent to NFL teams seeking a big complete tight end.
He entered the 2010 NFL draft as one of the most sought after tight ends, despite missing the 2009 season. New England liked what they saw from Gronkowski at Arizona and drafted him in the second round, 42nd overall. New England was an ideal location for Gronkowski with one of the best quarterbacks in NFL history in Tom Brady, plus a very solid offensive line.
Gronkowski was immediately given a chance to play, and did not disappoint during his rookie season. “Gronk,” as the New England faithful call him, recorded 10 touchdowns, the first to accomplish such a feat since the NFL-AFL merger. As the season went on, Gronkowski was targeted more often and earned Brady’s trust in a big way. Brady himself in an interview with a Boston radio station said he is dominant because “he can extend and catch the ball in a lot of different areas. He’s been very productive for us this year and we’re going to need to continue to find ways to get him the ball, but obviously when he does get the ball there’s a lot of emphasis on him from the defensive standpoint and that really has to get me to throw the ball to other guys.” At seasons end Gronkowski finished with 42 receptions for 546 yards, numbers that helped him win NFL rookie of the week twice (Week 14 & 17).
This season Gronkowski has put up some of the best numbers by a tight end ever, and is a huge reason why the Patriots are playing for the AFC championship. Gronkowski caught 17 touchdowns and finished with 1,327 receiving yards, breaking both previous records for tight ends. Gronk even added a rushing touchdown during the season, a cherry on top of his unbelievable season. He earned the most votes at the tight end position in Pro Bowl fan voting and will play in his first Pro Bowl, but plan on him seeing him as a Pro Bowler for years to come.
There’s no denying Gronkowski is very good, but the real question is why is he so good? Firstly, he is a massive man, at 6 ft. 6 in. and weighing in at 265 lbs. he is a mismatch for almost all defensive backs. He is essentially the size of a linebacker or defensive end but has the speed of a very fast tight end, running a 4.65 second forty yard dash, making him nearly impossible to tackle.
Gronkowski often doesn’t get credit for his blocking abilities, but he is a tremendous blocker and gives Brady extra time to find other receivers when called upon to block. Gronkowski has also perfected holding a block for a few seconds and then peeling off into the flat as a safety net for Brady. Not only is Gronkowski physically dominant but he also is a very smart player, making very few mistakes for someone only in their second year as a professional. Brady has commented on Gronkowski’s football intelligence, saying, “He’s got great football intellect. The thing with him is if he makes a mistake, you can pretty much count on that that mistake will never happen again.”
Gronk has the skills to be a perfect tight end, and a great addition to the Patriots already potent offense. If the first two years of his NFL career are an indication of his future, Gronkowski will shatter every tight end record possible and become one of the best ever. And he is in the perfect place to succeed and improve, playing in New England with coach Bill Belichick and Brady.
Personally, this is tough to swallow as a Bills fan, but I guess Gronk gets a pass because he’s a Buffalo boy and hey… maybe one day he’ll be wearing a Bills jersey… well it’s nice to dream anyway!