New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski has retired from the NFL after nine glorious seasons in which he won three Super Bowls and dominated the league to the point where he is widely considered the best to ever play his position.
A weekly nightmare on the field, Gronk was also one of the most colourful characters the league has ever seen away from the gridiron.
On Sundays, he simply could not be stopped. Short of creating a Frankenstein's monster combination of a player with cornerback speed, safety athleticism and linebacker physicality, there was no answer. And that is why Gronkowski spent the past decade at the top of his profession. He was simply too big, too strong and too fast to be contained. Think of an offensive lineman-sized wide receiver and you wouldn't be a million miles away from Tom Brady's favourite target.
But when he was a safe distance away from games and seasons, the goofy-smiling Gronk turned full on frat boy, chugging beers, dancing on party boats, turning his hand to WWE wrestling and spiking microphones in Trafalgar Square (more on that later). He was rarely out of the limelight and always seemed to be loving life.
His was a career as amusing as it was dominant. Let's take a little trip into the career - and wacky world - of Rob Gronkowski.
Gronk By the Numbers
3, 5 and 4...Gronkowski won three Super Bowls during his career with the Pats and also earned five trips to the Pro Bowl while also being named All-Pro on four occasions.
17...Gronk owns the single season receiving touchdowns record for a tight end with 17.
12...Gronkowski would always come up big for the Patriots in the playoffs and his 12 postseason touchdown catches are an NFL record for tight ends.
79...From the time he entered the NFL in 2010 to his most recent retirement, no player has caught more touchdown passes than Gronkowski's 79.
15.1...Gronk averaged 15.1 yards per catch during his illustrious career - the most by a tight end since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger.
7...In seven of his nine NFL seasons, Gronkowski was ranked as the number one tight end in the league by Pro Football Focus. He topped the TE rankings every year from 2011-2017.
Gronk's Greatest Moments
Massive efforts in losing causes...Two of Gronk's best career games came in big losses. He took over the second half of a Super Bowl 52 loss to Philadelphia and ended that contest with 9 receptions for 116 yards and two scores. And in the 2015 AFC Championship Game loss to Denver, Gronkowski caught 8 passes for 144 yards and a touchdown.
No Tebow Time in Foxboro...The NFL world was falling in love with Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow but Gronkowski brushed Denver aside in the Divisional Round of the 2011 playoffs with 10 catches for 145 yards and three touchdowns. Gronk even tipped up a pass to himself for a score in a one-sided 45-10 win.
The Nutcracker Dude at Wembley...Gronkowski was too much for the St. Louis Rams when New England rolled to a 45-7 victory in London in 2012. Gronk caught eight passes for 146 yards and two touchdowns and after one of his scores he marched up and down the end zone before spiking the ball. Gronk claimed he was paying tribute to "that nutcracker dude" who stands outside Buckingham Palace!!
Setting a record against the Bills...As a lad who grew up close to Buffalo, Gronkowski always enjoyed sticking it to the Bills. And he did just that in Week 17 of the 2011 campaign when he caught an NFL record 17th receiving touchdown in that campaign. In the same game, Gronk set a single season receiving yards mark for tight ends with 1,327.
Rob Gronkowski Fun Facts
- While on stage at the Trafalgar Square Fan Rally in 2012, Gronk responded to !spike the mic! chants coming from the audience in typical and expected fashion. He slammed the microphone onto the stage with such force that the boom can still be heard echoing across London today.
- The first ever Gronk Spike came in Week 3 of the 2010 season (his rookie year) after a touchdown against the Buffalo Bills.
- Gronk has a racehorse named after him.
- Gronkowski appeared at Wrestlemania 33 in Orlando in April 2017, helping his friend, Mojo Rawley, win a Battle Royal by levelling Jinder Mahal in the ring. An indicator of Gronk's future perhaps?
- While many NFL players undergo complicated pre-game routines each weekend, Gronk's routine was wonderfully simple. He told me in 2012 that his pre-game routine consisted of nothing more than drinking a big glass of chocolate milk!!