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Gronkowski played college football at the University of Arizona, winning several awards, including being named a Sporting News and Rivals.com Freshman All-American. Despite only playing two collegiate seasons, his 18.8 yards per reception average and 1,197 receiving yards were a team record for his position. The Patriots drafted Gronkowski in the second round of the 2010 NFL Draft with the 42nd pick, after missing his junior year due to back surgery.
Notable for being a skilled receiver and talented blocker, Gronkowski has set several NFL records, including being the first player of his position to lead the league in receiving touchdowns (17 in 2011). He also has the most career postseason receiving yards by a tight end (1,163) - the only tight end in NFL history to reach 1,000 or more yards. He has the most career postseason receiving touchdowns for his position with 12, as well as the most combined receptions (23) and receiving yards (297) by a tight end in Super Bowl history. He is ranked first in average receiving yards per game (68.3), average yards per target (9.9), and average touchdowns per game (0.69) among tight ends.
Gronkowski is one of football's most popular players, with a larger-than-life personality on and off the field. With his numerous accomplishments and accolades, he is regarded by many sports analysts, writers, and peers as one of his era's best players as well as the greatest tight end to ever play the game.
After graduating from high school, Gronkowski attended the University of Arizona as a Pre-Business major and played for the Arizona Wildcats football team from 2007 to 2009 under head coach Mike Stoops. As a freshman in 2007, he recorded 28 receptions for 525 yards and six touchdowns. His 18.8 yards per reception average was the best on the team and his receiving yards were a school record for a tight end. He was named The Sporting News freshman All-American, Rivals.com freshman All-American, The Sporting News freshman Pac-10, and All-Pac-10 honorable mention player.
Gronkowski missed the first three games of the 2008 season, but later recorded 47 receptions for 672 yards and a team-best ten touchdowns. Five of his touchdowns were scored in his first two games against UCLA and Washington. He was twice named the John Mackey National Tight End of the Week, including his performance in a failed comeback bid against Oregon, when he caught 12 passes for 143 yards. He set the school records for a tight end for single-game, single-season, and career receptions, yards, and touchdowns. Gronkowski was named an Associated Press third-team All-American and All-Pac-10 first-team tight end.
Prior to the 2009 season, Gronkowski was placed on the watchlist for the Lombardi Award, which is awarded to the most outstanding college football lineman or linebacker. He missed his junior season in 2009 due to back surgery, which caused his draft stock to fall.
"So Rob Gronkowski, certainly an interesting player. Excellent size, very well thought of down there by Coach [Mike] Stoops and his staff. I think as we saw there, in New York, he's kind of a fun loving guy who enjoys having a good time, but he plays like that, too. He plays with a good attitude. He's aggressive." -Coach Bill Belichick, April 2010
Gronkowski was drafted by the New England Patriots in the second round with the 42nd overall pick in the 2010 NFL Draft, after a draft day trade with the Oakland Raiders; in pre-draft evaluations revealed in May 2016, Raiders scouts had rated Gronkowski as the "best all-around player in the draft". He became the highest drafted tight end out of Arizona, breaking the mark set by Brandon Manumaleuna in 2001. He signed a four-year contract on July 25, 2010. The deal was worth $4.4 million, with a $1.76 million signing bonus.
In a Week 10 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers, Gronkowski caught three touchdown passes from Brady, becoming the first rookie in Patriots history, and the youngest rookie in NFL history to accomplish the feat. In honor of the feat, Madden NFL 12 has a "Rob Gronkowski Award" for players who have a tight end catch three or more touchdowns in a single game.
Visiting his hometown of Buffalo in Week 16, Gronkowski caught two touchdowns against the Buffalo Bills. He recorded his first 100-yard receiving game with six receptions for 102 receiving yards and a receiving touchdown in the regular season finale against the Miami Dolphins to give him 10 on the season. In 16 games played, Gronkowski started 11 games and caught 42 passes for 546 yards. Despite missing his entire 2009 college season following back surgery, Gronkowski did not miss a single game or practice all season; he was the first rookie tight end since the NFL-AFL merger to score 10 touchdowns. The Patriots finished with 14-2 record and won the AFC East. In the playoffs, Gronkowski made his postseason debut against the New York Jets in the Divisional Round. In the 28-21 upset loss, he had four receptions for 65 receiving yards.
Gronkowski was nominated three times for Pepsi NFL Rookie of the Week, in Weeks 10, 14, and 17, winning twice and losing in Week 10 to Tim Tebow. Gronkowski also finished fifth in fan balloting at tight end for the 2011 Pro Bowl, and fourth overall among rookies. Gronkowski received one writer's vote for the Associated Press 2010 All-Pro Team (writers only vote for one tight end). He was named to the NFL All-Rookie Team.
Gronkowski caught his first touchdown of the 2011 season on a 10-yard pass from Tom Brady in the Patriots' Week 1 38-24 victory over the Miami Dolphins; Gronkowski's six catches accounted for 86 of Brady's franchise record 517 yards. In Week 2, against the San Diego Chargers, he had four receptions for 86 receiving yards and two receiving touchdowns in the 35-21 victory. He followed that up with seven receptions for 109 receiving yards and two receiving touchdowns in the 34-31 loss to the Buffalo Bills. Over the next four games, he totaled 19 receptions for 214 receiving yards in a 3-1 stretch for the Patriots. In Week 9, against the New York Giants, he had eight receptions for 101 receiving yards and one receiving touchdown in the 24-20 loss. In Week 10, against the New York Jets, he had eight receptions for 113 receiving yards and two receiving touchdowns in the 37-16 victory. In Week 11, against the Kansas City Chiefs, Gronkowski caught two touchdown passes, including a career-long 52-yard catch and run, to equal his 2010 touchdown total in just ten games. He passed his reception and yardage totals from 2010 in only eight games.
Through Week 11, Gronkowski led all tight ends with 10 touchdowns; his 20 touchdowns were the most ever for a tight end in his first two seasons. His reception and receiving yardage totals both ranked second among tight ends (after Jimmy Graham of the New Orleans Saints), and in the top ten among all receivers, though they only ranked second on the Patriots, behind wide receiver Wes Welker.
Gronkowski broke the NFL record for touchdowns scored in a single season by a tight end when he had the second three-touchdown game of his career in the Patriots' Week 13 victory against the Indianapolis Colts. After scoring two touchdowns on receptions from Tom Brady, Gronkowski scored a third touchdown from two yards out. Initially declared a forward pass, the pass was later ruled a lateral pass, which is recorded as a rushing attempt; it was the only rushing attempt of Gronkowski's career, and his only rushing touchdown. It was the first rushing touchdown by a tight end since Bo Scaife did it in 2006, and the first in Patriots history. At game's end, Gronkowski had sole possession of the touchdown scoring record, with 14, and shared the record for receiving touchdowns, 13, with Antonio Gates and Vernon Davis.
Gronkowski took sole possession of the tight end receiving record a week later against the Washington Redskins, in which he caught his 14th and 15th touchdown passes of the season; in total, he had six receptions for a career-high 160 yards. His performance also earned him his first AFC Offensive Player of the Week award, and, for the second week in a row, NFL.com's "Hardest Working Man" award. He ended the season with 1,327 receiving yards, breaking the previous NFL record for a tight end of 1,310 set by Jimmy Graham of the Saints earlier that same day. He also finished with 18 total touchdowns, 17 receiving--both NFL records for tight ends. Gronkowski's 18 touchdowns were the second-highest total in the NFL (after Philadelphia's LeSean McCoy, who had 20), and equaled the output of the entire St. Louis Rams team. His 17 receiving touchdowns were the most of any NFL player in 2011, marking the first time in NFL history a tight end had sole possession of the league lead.
Gronkowski was voted the starting tight end for the AFC at the 2012 Pro Bowl. One of eight Patriots players voted to the Pro Bowl, he finished fan voting with 936,886 votes, more than triple the number received by the number two tight end, Gronkowski's teammate Aaron Hernandez, and the third-highest total of any AFC player, behind teammates Tom Brady and Wes Welker. He was also voted the tight end for the AP All-Pro first team, receiving 44½ of the 50 votes (44 voters voted for Gronkowski; 5 voters voted for Jimmy Graham, and one voter split a vote between the two). He was ranked 21st by his fellow players on the NFL Top 100 Players of 2012.
2011 postseason (Super Bowl XLVI)
In the Patriots' first playoff game, a 45-10 rout of the Denver Broncos in the Divisional Round, Gronkowski tied an NFL post-season record, catching three touchdown passes as part of a 10-catch, 145-yard effort. Gronkowski alone had more catches than the entire Broncos offense, as quarterback Tim Tebow completed just 9 of 26 passes. In the AFC Championship, a 23-20 win over the Baltimore Ravens, Gronkowski suffered a high ankle sprain on a tackle by Ravens safety Bernard Pollard; the status of his ankle was one of the major story lines in the run-up to Super Bowl XLVI. Gronkowski still managed to finish with five receptions for 87 yards. In Super Bowl XLVI, the Patriots decided to start Gronkowski, but he wasn't a large factor in the game. With only a few seconds left in the Super Bowl XLVI, Gronkowski had a chance on Tom Brady's Hail Mary as time expired, but his dive for the ball came up short. Gronkowski finished the game with two receptions for 26 yards, which was his lowest output since early October. The Patriots lost the Super Bowl to the New York Giants, 21-17. A few days after the Super Bowl, Gronkowski had an MRI of his injured ankle that revealed strained ligaments and required surgery to repair.
Gronkowski during the 2013 season
On June 8, 2012, Gronkowski signed a six-year, $54 million contract extension, the largest ever for an NFL tight end. The contract included an $8 million signing bonus, but otherwise left the 2012 and 2013 seasons of his rookie contract intact. Gronkowski started the season with receiving touchdowns in consecutive games, a 34-13 victory over the Tennessee Titans and a 20-18 loss to the Arizona Cardinals. In Week 4, he had five receptions for 104 receiving yards and one receiving touchdown in a 52-28 victory over the Buffalo Bills. In Week 7, against the New York Jets, he had six receptions for 78 receiving yards and two receiving touchdowns in the 29-26 victory. In Week 8, against the St. Louis Rams, he had eight receptions for 146 receiving yards and two receiving touchdowns in the 45-7 victory.
In the Patriots' 59-24 victory in Week 11 over the Indianapolis Colts, Gronkowski had seven receptions for 137 receiving yards and two receiving touchdowns. Gronkowski broke his left forearm late in the fourth quarter during an extra point  He became the third tight end in NFL history (after Tony Gonzalez and Antonio Gates) to achieve three seasons with at least 10 touchdown receptions, and the first ever to do it in three consecutive seasons. Gronkowski returned to practice in Week 15, and participated in the Week 17 game against the Miami Dolphins, scoring a touchdown. He re-injured his left arm in the first quarter of the Patriots' first playoff game, against the Houston Texans. He required another operation, and missed the remainder of the playoffs. In 11 games in the 2012 season, Gronkowski had 790 receiving yards and 11 touchdowns. He earned a Pro Bowl nomination despite missing some playing time. He was ranked 25th by his fellow players on the NFL Top 100 Players of 2013.
Gronkowski in 2013
In February 2013, Gronkowski was diagnosed with an infection in his forearm. He underwent an open procedure--the third on his forearm--in an effort to clear the infection; he was subsequently placed on a course of antibiotics. On May 20, 2013, Gronkowski underwent a fourth surgery on his forearm to replace the hardware implanted in the second procedure and perform tissue biopsies. ESPN's Adam Schefter reported that doctors were encouraged the infection had finally resolved. On June 18, 2013, Gronkowski underwent back surgery. He was cleared to play for the October 20, 2013, game against the New York Jets. In his return, he recorded three 100-yard receiving games in a six-game stretch. During a game against the Cleveland Browns on December 8, 2013, Gronkowski suffered a right knee injury after a direct hit from safety T. J. Ward. Gronkowski tore his ACL and MCL, which prematurely ended his 2013 season. In seven games, Gronkowski produced 592 receiving yards and four receiving touchdowns in six starts. Gronkowski was ranked 41st by his fellow players on the NFL Top 100 Players of 2014.
In his first game back from ACL/MCL surgery, Gronkowski managed to catch four passes for 40 receiving yards and a receiving touchdown against the Miami Dolphins in a losing effort, 33-20. He played on limited snaps as the Patriots worked him back to full strength slowly. Against the Minnesota Vikings in Week 2, Gronkowski had four receptions for 32 receiving yards in a 30-7 win. Against the Oakland Raiders in Week 3, Gronkowski had three receptions for 44 yards and his second touchdown of the season, and the only touchdown scored in the Patriots' 16-9 victory. Through Week 3, Gronkowski logged one start, 11 receptions, 116 receiving yards, and two receiving touchdowns on only 109 offensive snaps (42% of the team's offensive total). Gronkowski broke out in Week 8 against the Chicago Bears, catching nine passes for 149 yards and three receiving touchdowns in the 51-23 victory. In Week 14 against the San Diego Chargers, Gronkowski became the first tight end in NFL history to catch at least 10 touchdowns in four separate seasons. In the 23-14 victory, he had eight receptions for 87 yards and a touchdown. He finished the season with 82 receptions for 1,124 receiving yards and 12 receiving touchdowns. The Patriots finished with a 12-4 record and won the AFC East. Gronkowski earned his third Pro Bowl nomination and his second First Team-All Pro nomination for his 2014 season. His All-Pro nomination was unanimous, receiving all 50 votes. At the 2015 ESPY Awards, Gronkowski won the Comeback Player of the Year award for his 2014 season. He was ranked 10th by his fellow players on the NFL Top 100 Players of 2015.
2014 postseason (Super Bowl XLIX)
In the Divisional Round against the Baltimore Ravens, he had seven receptions for 108 yards and a touchdown in the 35-31 victory. In the AFC Championship against the Indianapolis Colts, he had three receptions for 28 yards and a touchdown in the 45-7 victory. Gronkowski was a major factor in the Patriots' 28-24 Super Bowl XLIX win over the Seattle Seahawks, recording 6 catches for 68 yards and a touchdown late in the second quarter. Gronkowski was fined twice this season, once for "unnecessary roughness" against Indianapolis Colts safety Sergio Brown, and the other time occurring during Super Bowl XLIX. Gronkowski, among three others, was fined $8,628 for "striking an opponent".
Gronkowski with then US President Barack Obama at an event to honor the team and their Super Bowl XLIX victory, at the White House on April 23, 2015.
During the Patriots' home opener on Thursday Night Football against the Pittsburgh Steelers on September 10, 2015, Gronkowski caught five passes for 94 yards, scoring three of the Patriots' four touchdowns in their 28-21 victory. The three-touchdown performance was the third in Gronkowski's career, one shy of wide receiver Randy Moss's team record of four. It also made Gronkowski the first player in NFL history with multiple three-touchdown-reception games against the Steelers. Through the Patriots' first six games, all victories, Gronkowski recorded 34 receptions for 533 yards and six touchdowns. He added 113 yards and a touchdown on October 29 in a 36-7 win over the Miami Dolphins. In the Patriots' first loss of the season, on November 29, 2015, against the Denver Broncos, Gronkowski had to be carted off the field after a right knee injury in the fourth quarter. Initial reports said that the injury appeared to be less serious than it originally looked.
After missing a week, Gronkowski returned for the Patriots' December 13 game against the Houston Texans. He caught four passes for 87 yards and a touchdown, for a total of 10 touchdowns and 1,018 yards on the season. The Patriots won, 27-6, to snap a two-game losing streak.
On December 20, Gronkowski caught five passes for 54 yards and one touchdown in a 33-16 win over the Tennessee Titans. He dedicated the touchdown to his friend Dana Parenteau, who had died at the age of 43 two days earlier.
In the Patriots' 27-20 win over the Kansas City Chiefs in the Divisional Round, Gronkowski caught seven passes for 83 yards and two touchdowns. In the AFC Championship, a 20-18 loss to the Denver Broncos, Gronkowski led all receivers with eight catches for 144 yards and a receiving touchdown. Gronkowski had the Patriots' final touchdown to put the Patriots within two points, but the resulting two-point conversion was unsuccessful.
Gronkowski missed the first two games of the 2016 season due to a hamstring injury and was limited in his next two games. Against the Buffalo Bills in Week 8, Gronkowski scored the 69th regular-season touchdown of his career, which was also his 68th receiving touchdown. The touchdown broke both Patriots franchise records set by Stanley Morgan. In Week 10 against the Seattle Seahawks, he took a big hit to the chest by Earl Thomas which was initially thought to be a punctured lung but turned out to be a pulmonary contusion, keeping him out in Week 11. In Week 12 against the New York Jets, he suffered a back injury at the beginning of the second half, which needed surgery to repair a herniated disk, and was out for the season. He was officially placed on injured reserve on December 3, 2016, after having surgery the previous day. He finished the season with 25 receptions on 38 targets for 540 yards and three touchdowns. His 21.6 yards per reception ranked first among NFL tight ends in 2016. Gronkowski was on injured reserve when the Patriots won Super Bowl LI on February 5, 2017. In the game, the Patriots defeated the Atlanta Falcons by a score of 34-28, earning Gronkowski his second Super Bowl championship. Despite missing eight games, Gronkowski was still ranked 23rd by his peers on the NFL Top 100 Players of 2017.
2017 season (Super Bowl LII)
Gronkowski began the 2017 season healthy after missing much of the previous season on the injured reserve list. Gronkowski injured his groin during a Week 2 victory over the New Orleans Saints, leaving the game early, but the injury did not result in missing any further games. Before the injury, he had recorded six receptions for 116 yards and a 53-yard touchdown. By the end of Week 4, he was occupying his familiar role as the team leader in receptions and receiving yardage, but a thigh contusion suffered in practice prior to the Thursday Night Football game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 5 caused him to miss that game entirely. In Week 6, Gronkowski caught six passes for 83 receiving yards and two receiving touchdowns as the Patriots defeated the New York Jets by a score of 24-17. His 33-yard catch put the Patriots in the lead as well as overcoming a 14-point deficit. In Week 12, against the Miami Dolphins, Gronkowski caught five passes for 82 receiving yards and two receiving touchdowns. This was his 16th multiple touchdown game, which broke the franchise record previously held by Randy Moss.
During Week 13 against the Buffalo Bills, Gronkowski had nine receptions for 147 receiving yards as the Patriots won 23-3. However, after Bills rookie cornerback Tre'Davious White intercepted a pass intended for Gronkowski during the fourth quarter, Gronkowski responded by jumping elbow-first onto White, drawing a personal foul penalty and giving White a concussion. Gronkowski was upset, claiming that White should have been flagged for a pass interference penalty. On December 4, the day after the game, Gronkowski was suspended for one game for his hit on White. The next day, December 5, the NFL denied Gronkowski's appeal of the one-game suspension. With Gronkowski suspended for the Patriots' Week 14 game against the Miami Dolphins, the Patriots lost 20-27.
The following week, in a 27-24 win on the road against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Gronkowski caught nine passes for a career-high 168 yards. Gronkowski caught three consecutive passes for 69 yards on the Patriots' game-winning drive, and then caught the ensuing two-point conversion to put the Patriots up by 3. He eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark on the season for the fourth time in his career, joining Tony Gonzalez and Jason Witten as the only NFL tight ends with four 1,000-yard seasons. His performance in Week 15 earned him AFC Offensive Player of the Week. On December 19, 2017, Gronkowski was named to his fifth Pro Bowl. He finished the 2017 season with 69 receptions for 1,084 yards, most among tight ends, and eight touchdowns. In January 2018, he was named to the Associated Press' All-Pro First Team, earning him a $2.5 million incentive that was added to his contract during the 2017 offseason. The Patriots finished with a 13-3 record and earned a first round bye. In the Divisional Round against the Tennessee Titans, he finished with six receptions for receiving 81 yards and a receiving touchdown in the 35-14 victory. On January 21, 2018, Gronkowski suffered a concussion on a 21-yard reception during the AFC Championship Game against the Jacksonville Jaguars, being placed on concussion protocol, and did not return to the game. He would be cleared from the protocol just in time for Super Bowl LII against the Philadelphia Eagles. During the Super Bowl, he finished with 116 receiving yards and two touchdowns. In the closing seconds, he attempted to catch a Hail Mary pass, but failed, and the Patriots lost 33-41. He was ranked 15th by his fellow players on the NFL Top 100 Players of 2018.
2018 season (Super Bowl LIII)
The Patriots agreed to trade Gronkowski to the Detroit Lions in the offseason but the deal fell through after the tight end vetoed it.
On April 24, Gronkowski announced that he had met with head coach Bill Belichick and that he would return for the 2018 season. He returned to practice on June 5 after skipping minicamp, confirming his return. In the opening game against the Houston Texans, Gronkowski had seven receptions for 123 yards and one touchdown in a 27-20 victory. He also fumbled for the first time since 2012. However, in his next six games, Gronkowski had some limited production, totaling 22 receptions for 325 yards with no touchdowns. He scored his second touchdown of the season in the Week 12 victory over the New York Jets. In Week 14, against the Miami Dolphins, he had eight receptions for 107 receiving yards and a receiving touchdown in the 34-33 loss. In the loss, a last-second victory by the Dolphins, Gronkowski unsuccessfully was the last line of defense on the game-winning play. This stemmed from Gronkowski often taking the field as a hybrid safety to defend against Hail Mary passes. In the 2018 season, he finished with 47 receptions for 682 receiving yards and three receiving touchdowns.
The Patriots made the playoffs as the #2-seed in the AFC. In the Divisional Round against the Los Angeles Chargers, he had a 25-yard reception in the 41-28 victory. In the AFC Championship against the Kansas City Chiefs, he had six receptions for 79 receiving yards in the 37-31 overtime victory. During Super Bowl LIII against the Los Angeles Rams, Gronkowski finished with 87 receiving yards as the Patriots won 13-3. In the process, he set the record for catches and yards for tight ends in the Super Bowl with 23 catches and 297 yards. Gronkowski's biggest moment came when, with the score tied at 3 in the fourth quarter, he had a 29-yard catch from Tom Brady which took the Patriots to the two-yard line and set up the game's only touchdown, with Sony Michel scoring on a two-yard rush to put the Patriots ahead.
"I said it from the beginning that I wouldn't come back to the game unless I'm feeling it, feeling healthy, and feeling ready to play. Taking a year off was hands down the best decision I made, not just in my career, but also for my health and well-being, and I would do that all over again."
-Gronkowski on coming out of retirement, April 2020
On March 24, 2019, after nine seasons, Gronkowski announced his retirement from the NFL, at 29 years old, via Instagram. He further elaborated on his decision five months later saying that the pain and injuries he had suffered throughout his career had taken a toll on his mental health,
"I was not in a good place. Football was bringing me down, and I didn't like it. I was losing that joy in life... I could play right now if I wanted to play. I'm feeling good. Physically, I could do it. Mentally-wise, desire-wise, it's not there... I am very satisfied with where I am in life right now. I truly believe going through those tough times, nine years, off the field, on the field, has brought me to this point. I believe I'm on the right path in my life."
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
2020 season (Super Bowl LV)
On April 21, 2020, the Patriots, which still held Gronkowski's rights, traded him to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers along with a seventh-round pick in exchange for a compensatory fourth round pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. The trade reunited him with his former Patriots quarterback Brady, who had signed with the Buccaneers a month prior. Head coach Bruce Arians stated that it was Brady himself who was adamant for the team to trade for Gronkowski.
On October 18, 2020, Gronkowski caught five passes for 78 yards and his first touchdown with the Buccaneers in a 38-10 victory over the Green Bay Packers. It was Gronkowski's first touchdown catch since December 9, 2018 against the Miami Dolphins.
In Week 12 against the Kansas City Chiefs, Gronkowski recorded six catches for 106 yards during the 27-24 loss.
In Week 16 against the Detroit Lions, Gronkowski recorded two catches for 58 yards that both resulted in touchdowns during the 47-7 win. Overall, he finished with 45 receptions for 623 receiving yards and seven receiving touchdowns.
Gronkowski's 29-yard catch towards the end of the fourth quarter of the NFC Championship Game set up the critical and game-winning field goal for Ryan Succop, with the Buccaneers winning 31-26.
Most receiving yards by a tight end in Super Bowl history: 297
Most career postseason receiving touchdowns by a tight end: 12
First tight end with 1,000+ career postseason receiving yards
Most career postseason receiving yards by a tight end: 1,163
Youngest player with 3 touchdown receptions in a game, playoffs: 22 years, 275 days (2011 playoffs, vs. Denver Broncos)
Records previously set but no longer held:
Most single-season record for receiving yards by a tight end: 1,327 (2011; broken in 2018 by George Kittle)
Patriots franchise records
Most career touchdown receptions: 79
Most games with multiple touchdowns: 16
Most games with 100+ receiving yards by a tight end: 26
Highest receiving yards per game average for a tight end (season): 82.9 (2011)
Gronkowski in 2017
Described as an "NFL supernova," a "sui generis," a "gold standard," a "generational marvel," and an "on-field force of nature," Gronkowski revolutionized the tight end position and became the envisioned archetype for which the position could and should be. For ESPN, "it felt like the tight end position was invented in response to his rare gifts, the singular marriage of power and grace he brought to the game."
Gronkowski was widely praised for his versatility, having both the catching dexterity of a wide receiver and the blocking skills of an offensive lineman. Such abilities, both played on elite levels, made him the most complete, all-around, and true tight end, unlike other players of his position who were either only a receiver or blocker. Big, strong and agile at 6'6" and 265-pounds with hands measuring 10 ¾ inches from thumb to pinkie, he has been viewed as a homologue to NBA's LeBron James and Shaquille O'Neal as one of the most physically gifted athletes in American sports history. Gronkowski is also known for his high football IQ and has been acknowledged for his intelligent and versatile route-running. He was the highest ranked tight end in the annual NFL Top 100 Players five times, as voted by his peers. The Patriots also included him in its 2010s All-Decade Team. Regarded as one of football's finest players, he has set several NFL records and was selected not only in the NFL 2010s All-Decade Team but also in the NFL's 100th Anniversary All-Time Team. Gronkowski is also widely thought of as the best tight end in the history of the game.
His effervescence and irreverence made him not only a fan favorite, but also an icon and a folk hero. Gronkowski is considered one of the most unique personalities in sports, and has played with "an inimitable combination of acrobatic athleticism and reckless abandon" all the while maintaining his boyish enthusiasm and humor.
"Gronk is a one of a kind person, player and friend. He is one of the most positive people I have ever been around and he loves to have fun. What you see is what you get and whether he is dancing, singing, laughing, or spiking, he is true to himself."
-Teammate Tom Brady, 2015
Gronkowski has stated that partying improved his playing abilities noting, "You go out and get refreshed, and it just makes you want to go back out on that practice field and keep going hard." During an on-air interview with ESPN Deportes after an AFC Championship win in 2012 he responded in Spanish answering, "¡Yo soy fiesta!" (literally, "I am party!") when asked how he will celebrate the victory. The clip went viral, and his Gronk Nation, L.L.C. later trademarked the catchphrase.
In 2019, Gronkowski entered ESPN's "World Fame 100" list of most famous athletes in the world; the outlet estimated his endorsement income the past year alone was $8 million.
In 2012, PLB Sports began manufacturing "Gronk Flakes", a frosted cornflakes breakfast cereal named after and endorsed by Gronkowski. Its initial run of 64,800 boxes cost $3.99 each and available at Stop & Shop supermarkets in New England. After the success of the cereals, PLB Sports released "Gronk's Hot Sauce" in 2015. The following year Gronkowski and Monster Energy released a signature "Gronk" beverage distributed by Coca-Cola.
In August 2019, Gronkowski credited cannabidiol (CBD) oil, the non-psychoactive component of cannabis plants, for making him pain-free for the first time in a decade, and has advocated sports governing bodies to allow players to use it for pain management.
Film, television and other media
Gronkowski (right) as an animated version of himself with Peter Griffin in the 2017 Family Guy episode "Gronkowsbees".
Gronkowski set up the Gronk Nation Youth Foundation which is dedicated to "help kids stay actively involved in school and sports and provide them with the tools needed to help them follow their dreams and live a happy and more successful life". The foundation provides grants to sports programs with an emphasis on health, community and fitness. He stated, "I created the Gronk Nation Youth Foundation with my family and my friends, because growing up, I had a lot. I had everything as a kid, from playgrounds to sports, and a lot of people to play with, and thus everything I needed to be successful later as an athlete."
Aside from his own foundation, Gronkowski has also regularly helped the Make-A-Wish Foundation and the Patriots Foundation. In addition, he annually shaves his head for One Mission Buzz Off for kids with cancer. Noted for being generous with his time and resources, Gronkowski has also made several appearances at New England children's hospitals and schools to support local charities. In 2016, he received the Ron Burton Community Service Award from the New England Patriots for his charitable works and leadership in the local community.
On March 26, 2019, he accepted the Merit Award from United Service Organizations which recognizes "individuals of outstanding creative talent who are dedicated to serving others through volunteerism." On April 6, 2019, he was honored with the Wish Hero Award by the Make-A-Wish Foundation for his work on granting 14 wishes of children with life-threatening sicknesses during his professional football career.
^"Curran: Gronk had nothing more to give". NBC Sports Boston. March 24, 2019. Retrieved 2019. Gronk proved a 6-6, 260-pound behemoth with muscles on his muscles, a so-so command of the King's English and the sense of humor of a seventh-grader could become an icon by never being anything but himself.