After three years at the University of Arizona, the New England Patriots selected Rob Gronkowski in the second round of the 2010 NFL Draft. At this point, Bill Belichick and Tom Brady were regarded as the greatest coach-quarterback duo in history to most people and already had three super bowl trophies in their collection, but they needed another weapon on their offense.
Gronkowski in his second year as a Wildcat was named an AP third-team All-American and All-Pac-10 first-team tight end. He caught 47 balls that season for 672 yards and 10 touchdowns while only playing in ten games. After a great first two seasons in Tucson, he hit a roadblock as he was forced to miss his entire junior season due to back surgery.
Some would ask, why wouldn’t he come back for his senior season and try to improve his draft stock?
Maybe it was because his insane physique added to his natural ability on the football field.
In his first two seasons in the NFL, he excelled in every area of his game and fit perfectly into Belichick’s offense. In just his second season he was named an All-Pro and was named a Pro Bowl which is an incredible feat to overcome at such a young age. He totaled almost two thousand yards and 27 touchdowns over that time span but once again had to take a step back due to another injury.
Injuries became a big part of Gronk's career, as he only played in 14 or more games in one season in five out of his nine seasons in New England.
But it didn’t matter how many games Gronk played in during the regular season, as long as he was available for the playoffs and could help Brady win another Super Bowl, that is all that mattered.
After his first six years in the NFL, the Patriots started to play it smart and let him rehab longer and make sure that when he does return to a game, so that he would look like the same Gronk that everyone knows and loves.
And that is exactly what happened in his final three to four seasons in New England, he had to fight and fight to get back on the field after suffering a torn ACL, concussions, torn MCL, fractured forearm and many more.
But every time I would turn on a Patriots game and Gronk was healthy, he was out there running superb routes unlike we have ever seen from a 6-foot-6 tight end, being a shutdown blocker, catching touchdowns and always bringing the energy on the field.
After the Patriots defeated the Los Angeles Rams in the Super Bowl in 2018, Gronk later announced his retirement from football. Many didn’t believe that this was going to be it for him as he was 29 years old and seemed like he still had a lot he could give to a team in the NFL.
Gronkowski won three Super Bowls in nine years as a Patriot while also going to two more but losing.
For some, winning three Super Bowls in nine seasons and being able to retire at 29 years old would be great, but it wasn’t for the greatest tight end of all time.
The second he retired, the rumors started swirling about when he was going to come back and help Brady win again, but where could it be at?
On March 20, 2020, Brady shocked the world and announced that he would be continuing his career with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers instead of staying with the Patriots. In Brady’s first season without Gronk in 2019, he struggled a little bit as he didn’t have his big receiving tight end to help bail him out of tough situations.
After about a month after Brady was getting settled into Tampa, it was reported that his old friend was joining him once again on the Bucs.
There were a ton of people already doubting them and saying that an offense with this many weapons couldn’t work. They did struggle throughout parts of the season but, when in doubt, trust Brady to get the job done.
In Gronk's first season in Tampa, he finished with 45 catches for 623 yards and seven touchdowns. Early on in the year, he didn’t have a big role on offense, and we didn’t see the old Gronk from Arizona and New England. However, in the second half of the season, we started to see flashes of his old self.
Fast forward to the present day: Rob Gronkowski is preparing to play in his sixth Super Bowl game out of his ten seasons in the NFL. That is just incredible for any player to do, but especially for someone who has had to overcome so much to get to this point in his life, where he can come back to doing what he loves to do while being healthy and getting back to where he wants to be: on one of the biggest stages of them all, the Super Bowl.
In his last two Super Bowls, he has had a combined 16 receptions for 203 yards and two touchdowns. Gronk is the X-factor in this game; if Bruce Arians can get him going early on, it will be hard for the Kansas City Chiefs to stop him and their explosive offense.
Follow Ryan Wohl on Twitter