How Rob Gronkowski will be remembered by teammates isn’t what you think

Ryan Hannable
January 31, 2019 - 11:06 am

ATLANTA — Sunday could very well be Rob Gronkowski’s last NFL game.

It has been widely reported the tight end will retire after this year following nine seasons in the NFL. When healthy, Gronkowski has been one of the most dominant tight ends ever to play the game.

Whether it was his 17 touchdowns in 2011, his three, 1,000-yard receiving seasons, or games that he completely took over, he’s a unique talent.

With that being said, it was very interesting talking to members of the team over the last few days about their favorite memories of Gronkowski, as almost all of them were about things that happened off the field and who he is as a person. This speaks to just how genuine the tight end really is. He’s helped the team win so many games over the years, but the memories that stand out most don’t even have to do with things on the game field.

Of course, there were still a few players who recalled performances on the field, like last year in Pittsburgh. The Patriots were trailing by four at the two-minute warning and that was when Tom Brady and Gronkowksi connected on three consecutive snaps for gains of 26, 26 and 17 yards to set up what turned into the game-winning touchdown.

“The Pittsburgh game last year, the last two minutes, ‘Oh my God,’” guard Shaq Mason said.

“It was probably the Pittsburgh game last year,” tight end Dwayne Allen added. “I have never seen a tight end just take over a game the way that he did on that drive. It was really something special to see from a teammate's perspective.”

And then there was the 2014 game against the Colts when Gronkowski showed just how powerful he can be.

“He had one against the Colts and he tossed [Sergio Brown] out of the club,” linebacker Dont’a Hightower said.

The vast majority of players spoke to just who he is as a person and his work ethic. 

Even though he’s one of the best tight ends to ever play the game, he still shows up every day and works as hard as he possibly can. He treats practices like games, but also has a way of making it fun and that has rubbed off on other players.

“It’s really hard to narrow one down, but I will always remember him running around practice just having the time of his life,” long snapper Joe Cardona said.

Tight end Stephen Anderson added: “Just the times at practice where I am just watching him run his routes. I am watching him in his blocking and see how good his attention to detail is on everything that he does and how hard he works. There’s not one that really stands out, it is just a whole season’s worth of small memories that I am just like, ‘Wow, this is a future Hall of Fame tight end.’”

“When we first met, he was like, ‘What’s up Moose?’ I knew right then that he was a cool guy,” said defensive tackle Danny Shelton. “Growing as a player with him and watching him compete in practice, you learned a lot about him and you learned to gain something from him. For me, it is more having fun. Having fun and being a professional at the same time. I feel like Gronk does that well.”

Even his tight ends coach Nick Caley can appreciate how hard he works every single day.

“There’s a lot of good memories and if you look back there have been a lot of good experiences. I would say every single day that he comes to work he is the same guy,” he said. “He never has a bad day. He always has a smile on his face. He has passion. He has enthusiasm. He works hard. He’s a great teammate and he loves to compete. That is the thing you see over and over again. In terms of memories, I would say the four years I have been fortunate enough to work with Coach Belichick and this organization, he’s been the same guy for four years. He’s a consistent, positive guy every day.”

While how he approaches practices is notable, the biggest thing that stands out to his teammates is the way he acts off the field and as a person. It is his ability to have fun at all times and make his teammates laugh.

“He’s just a lovable guy,” wide receiver Julian Edelman said. “He works hard. He has fun. He’s a beast. It’s literally like the big goofy kid in seventh grade out at recess and is like two feet taller than everyone having the most fun. Like doesn’t really get mad, just laughs because he’s dominating. That is kind of what it is.”

"I think the thing about Rob that I appreciate the most is his genuineness,” special teams captain Matthew Slater said. “With all the success that he’s had and everything that he’s accomplished in this league, he has never changed. I appreciate that. He’s never changed — the same child-like joy that he had and love of the game and love being around his teammates and just being one of the guys. That is the thing I appreciate most about him and the thing I will remember the most.”

There’s also the goofy side.

“Actually the memory of him dancing on stage the other night [at Opening Night] will stick in my head,” wide receiver Chris Hogan said. “Rob is a guy where I have never seen him have a bad day. He’s just constantly smiling, happy to be around us, happy to be around the team. He’s just a great teammate. If you need a laugh or you need a smile, you just talk to Rob.”

“Last year, he got really infatuated with hurricanes,” offensive lineman James Ferentz added. “That was a trip going down that with him. He was really into the Wikipedia page and he really got the nuts and bolts down pretty good. At the beginning he was like all of us thinking they know what a hurricane is and then when he really started reading up on it he was like, ‘Wow, water, it’s crazy.’”

It really does say something that with all the dominant performances on the field, the stuff that stands out most to his teammates is who he is off it.

“I would say just a guy that has a free spirit no matter what anybody says — negative, positive, he is going to be who he is going to be,” safety Duron Harmon said. “He’s going to enjoy life. He is going to enjoy playing the game and all you can do is just appreciate that.”

If the tight end indeed does call it quits after the game, the Patriots will certainly miss him on the field, but the biggest void may be who he is off it. 

There will only be one Gronk.

Related: Mike Florio on M&C: Win or lose, Gronk is done