Rob Gronkowski retired on Sunday night, leaving behind the greatest resume a tight end has ever authored in the National Football League.
He came in by mosh pit on the Radio City Music Hall stage. He left with a quiet, thankful Instagram post. Rob Gronkowski, gone from our football lives.
On Sunday, Gronkowski walked away from the game he dominated for nine seasons. In his wake, three Super Bowl rings, five Pro Bowls, four First-Team All-Pro designations and a slew of records. In five years, he’ll be immortalized in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The best to have ever done it.
In the current climate, words like GOAT and special are thrown around often. They actually apply to Gronkowski. Entering the league in 2011 with the New England Patriots, there had been ample tight ends who became elite receivers. Mike Ditka, John Mackey, Kellen Winslow, Ozzie Newsome, Shannon Sharpe, Antonio Gates and Tony Gonzalez all leap to mind in that category.
Yet it was Gronkowski who elevated the bar at his position. In his regular-season career, the former second-round pick amassed 79 touchdowns and 7,861 yards, while adding another 12 scores in the postseason.
Throughout NFL history, nobody had ever combined devastating blocking with a top receiver’s numbers before. The man known as Gronk did it throughout his career in New England, leaving his dominant versatility as a lasting legacy.
By the time he reached January of this year, Gronkowski’s body’s failing him. He no longer could lope down the seam and stretch for a high Tom Brady spiral. He wasn’t agile enough anymore to shake a safety, what with a torn ACL, back problems, forearm breaks and concussions piling up. Yet he was arguably the most important offensive player in New England’s sixth title run, save for Brady.
Against the Los Angeles Chargers and Kansas City Chiefs, Gronkowski was a crushing blocker at the point of attack. Behind him, the Patriots rushed for a total of 331 yards and eight touchdowns in two victories.
Gronkowski, ever the workhorse, missed a total of six offensive snaps.
In Super Bowl LIII, Gronkowski played every snap and made two critical catches in the fourth quarter, helping the Patriots hoist the Lombardi Trophy once more.
For all the partying and goofy antics, Gronkowski was a focused technician when it came to football. To be as great as Gronkowski became, and to last almost a decade with Bill Belichick, there’s no other way.
Now, Gronkowski picks up his football and goes home. He’ll presumably rest a bit and then move on to the next portion of his life, perhaps in the entertainment realm. Hard to imagine we’ve seen the last of him.
In the end, a silly kid from New York ended up becoming a beloved hero in Boston, dancing through life with a lamp shade on his head, only to shed it on Sundays.