|Tim Heitman/US Presswire|
|Rob Gronkowski hauled in three touchdowns in the Patriots' blowout of the Broncos in the divisional round.|
It was a beautiful thing, the way he pushed off the right foot of his 265-pound frame and stretched his massive left paw toward that tiny, pathetic football as it sailed toward the back corner of the end zone Saturday night.
His body crashed to the ground like a piano pushed from a window, yet Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski paid the Earth beneath him no mind. Why would he? It stood no chance, nor did anything else separating this machine from his tasks.
See football. Chase football. Catch football. Spike football.
It wasn't just fantastic. It was Gronktastic. It wasn't just greatness. It was Gronkness. It wasn't just ... oh, whatever. You get the point. Let's move on to more important matters, like this one: Where do I sign up? I want in.
I want to join the Gronk Nation.
Look, I'm late to the party. I know that, and I'm sorry. While I've always respected Gronk (can I call him Gronk yet?), I've never asked nor received permission to climb on board the Gronk Wagon, which is surely stocked with Styrofoam coolers of beer.
So here I am, longtime Gronk loyalists, willing to trade you six 1989 Topps Derrick Thomas rookie cards for just one day of membership into your club. You can have my Tebow Time handbook. Use it as a coaster. Whatever. Just take me in.
For those of you even later to the party than me, for those wondering what the big deal is, just go back to your eighth-grade science class. Remember the idea of evolution? Well, homo sapiens are to neanderthalensis as Gronkowski is to Mark Bavaro. Gronk and a small contingent of others (see: Saints tight end Jimmy Graham) make up a new breed of NFL players. Massive. Athletic. Talented. And currently unstoppable.
This regular season, Gronkowski caught more touchdowns (17) with more yards (1,327) than any tight end in NFL history. On Saturday, when Patriots coach Bill Belichick realized the Broncos planned to cover Gronkowski with undrafted rookie safety Chris Harris, it was the equivalent of hearing the guy across from you at the poker table say, "Is a pair of sevens any good?"
True, the Ravens will surely have a more formidable plan to contain Gronkowski during Sunday's AFC Championship Game. They've got a group of strategic, smart veterans on defense -- not to mention perhaps the best ball-hawking safety to ever play the game (Ed Reed). It's a challenging matchup, for sure.
"You don't fool Ed too often," quarterback Tom Brady said Wednesday. "Coach Belichick has a meeting for quarterbacks each week. We go over the strengths and weaknesses of opponents. Ed has no weak points."
But that's the beauty of Gronkowski, a 2010 second-round pick from the University of Arizona: You can plan against him. You can put a turnover machine in his area. Yet with a 6-foot-6, 265-pound frame capable of maneuvering in ridiculously athletic ways, it's still a task to simply guard against his size.
That's not to say Baltimore won't find a way to limit him, but with wide receiver Wes Welker and another tight end, Aaron Hernandez, also serving as unique weapons, this multi-dimensional passing game provides Brady with a variety of approaches because of the need to at least keep Gronkowski honest.
As players like Gronkowski, Graham and Antonio Gates (who was an important piece to this transition toward the new tight end) continue to rise, I'm convinced it's going to require general managers throughout the league to react accordingly by searching for a new breed of bigger, faster linebackers capable of covering the pass like a cornerback. Until that evolution occurs on the other side of the ball -- until defenses react to this trend on offense -- it might be time for you to also jump on the bandwagon.
So let's just get the hazing started. I'm all in. Hell, I'll even shave Gronk Nation into my head. Better yet, I'll go straight to the Gronk fade, a modern-day flat top that clearly requires the special touch of Supercuts.
I want the "In Gronk We Trust" T-shirt. I want the 10 percent discount for members at GronkNation.com. If you'll have me, loyal nation of Gronk supporters, I want the whole damn thing.
I'm sorry it took me so long to see the light. Now, somebody pass me a beer.
Follow Jeff Darlington on Twitter @jeffdarlington