When Rob Gronkowski announced his retirement on Sunday, the New England Patriots and all of football lost not just one of the best players to ever suit up but also one of the game’s greatest superstars: Gronk dominated as a matchup nightmare and physical blocker on the field, and was the fun-loving goofball off it — a unique character integral to the second part of the Patriots’ dynasty.
Needless to say that Gronkowski produced plenty of memorable moments over the course of his Hall of Fame career, and the Pats Pulpit staff got together to share its favorites.
Bernd Buchmasser: Picking a favorite Gronk memory is like picking a favorite Beatles song: there are too many great ones to choose from, and certainly almost no wrong answers. So between all the tremendous plays on the biggest stages and in crunch time, and his up-beat persona off the field, one play stands out — his 2011 catch-and-run against Washington when he simply overpowered a bunch of defenders down the sideline to keep the play alive.
At the time, my fiancée was living in Germany together with a guy from Maryland so him being a Washington fan and me supporting the Patriots we sat together to watch the game. His sheer disbelief at Gronk just fighting his way through the defense is still vivid in my memory — and the first time I truly thought that this guy would become something else... which he did. What a play, what a game, what a career.
I also have to add an honorable mention for entertainment purposes: when Gronk just started flexing instead of answering questions about Deflategate. My, what a guy the NFL loses.
Rich Hill: Gronk has to be the most joyful football player I’ve ever watched. Whether he was throwing players out of the club or spiking the ball after the touchdown, he has to be considered the greatest offensive skill player in Patriots franchise history. My favorite memory? I can’t pick any of his individual plays- there are too many- but I’m probably going to remember his sideline antics. His dancing. His laughs. His post-game press conferences. He was the most entertaining player to watch and I’m going to miss him.
Alec Shane: This is a tough one, as Gronk is the core first player in this Patriots Dynasty 2.0 to retire. The early 2000s had guys like Ty Law, Tedy Bruschi, Troy Brown, and Kevin Faulk, and the late 2000s will have guys like Gronk, Devin McCourty, Dont’a Hightower, and James Devlin. The difference, of course, is that Gronk wasn’t just Mr. Patriot, your classic lunch pail player who worked hard, embraced the system, and played above his means; he’s arguably the greatest to ever play his position, a dominant offensive force unlike anything the NFL has ever seen, and an undeniable Hall of Famer. We’ve lost Patriots to retirement before, but Gronkowski’s transcends the others in certain ways. The NFL may never see another human being like him again.
It would be so easy to pick out one of the all-time Gronk moments - the run against the Redskins, destroying the entire Colts defense, blocking Sergio Brown into oblivion, the catch and run against the Bears, the changing of the guard spike in London - as they are all epic and more than worthy. But to me, what I think most encapsulates what kind of player Gronk was has to be the 2015 AFC Championship Game in Denver. The Patriots never led at any point during that game, and it wasn’t until very late in the game when they finally decided to gain some momentum. On what would be New England’s final drive of the season, Brady hit Gronk on 4th and 10 to keep the drive alive, and then on 4th and goal to set up the potentially game tying 2 point conversion - a pass that Gronk fought through double coverage while staying in bounds to make. If Ghost hadn’t shanked one earlier, the Patriots tie it there and probably win that game - and even then, Gronk was wide open in the end zone on the try that ultimately failed. Even though it came in a loss, that final drive perfectly encapsulates the value Rob Gronkowski has to this team: when you needed a play, you know who would step up.
Slot Machine Player: My favorite Gronk game because I watched it with a bunch of Steelers fans, was the game against the Steelers where the single most lethal offensive force in the league lined up, and the Steelers had no one at all covering him. Not even close. It was like, “I’m not going to cover him.” ”Well, I’m certainly not going to cover him.” TD Tomlin Face.
Oliver Thomas: Rob Gronkowski’s first interview as an NFL player arrived as he crossed the stage at Radio City Music Hall with a helmet in hand on April 23, 2010. Pick No. 42 overall’s on-air exchange with NFL Network’s Deion Sanders was brief. It was eagerness, cackles and tears. It was an introduction to him.
Sanders: “How fired up are you, big fella? You grabbed me and almost dislocated a shoulder just then.”
Gronkowski: “Who? You’re grabbing you, man?”
Sanders: “No, you grabbed me.”
Gronkowski: “Oh, haha. Man, I’m so fired up, man. I think this is a great organization. I took a visit there, I love all the coaches, all the players and everything. It’s awesome. Going to have one of the best quarterbacks ever in the league to be throwing me the ball. This is the greatest moment of my life, man. This is unbelievable.”
Matthew Rewinski: Mine’s a simple one, and at the same time, quintessential “of course he did” Gronk: Super Bowl 49. Stakes for Tom Brady’s legacy aside: Bill and Josh split Gronk out wide against Seattle in the second quarter (who let’s keep in mind was getting compared to the ‘85 Bears in terms of pure destruction at the time). The gamble was that the Hawks would play man coverage. Risky. And then KJ Wright walks out to cover Gronk. Man to man. In bump and run.
The Gronk’s body would not cooperate for the Super Bowl a few years earlier. This was revenge.
In what other situation would you see a tight end go all the way out wide and be like “Oh dude, that’s a touchdown”? Only Gronk.
Chris Blackey: Obviously a ton of memories with Gronk, but my favorite would be the big catch in Super Bowl 53. I think that perfectly sums up his tenure with the team: when the Pats needed a big play, #87 would deliver. He’s arguably the best ever at his position.
Pat Lane: Gronk was the GOAT, and there’s almost too many moments to pick just one. I started an email, and it’s kind of turned into an article, so I’ll just say he’s the most unbelievable player I’ve ever seen play football.
What is your favorite memory of Rob Gronkowski? Make sure to share it in the comment section and turn it into one big Gronk appreciation thread.