FOXBORO, Mass. — As New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski held court in front of his locker Thursday afternoon, a voice chimed in from beyond the media scrum.
“Hey, Robert,” running back LeGarrette Blount called out. “We love you.”
How much do the Patriots love Gronkowski? Enough to elect him team captain for the first time in his seven-year NFL career.
“It’s definitely an honor to be recognized at that level,” Gronkowski said. “Definitely an honor to have so many great guys around us in this locker room, so many great teammates around us in this locker room. So I’ve just got to keep on doing what I’m doing. Keep on going hard, keep on practicing hard, keep on showing the young guys the right way.”
While Gronkowski’s public image is of a fun-loving guy who loves to play football and party hard, the events of these past few weeks are proof there’s much more to the 27-year-old than truck-sticking defenders and crushing Natty Lights.
Last Wednesday, Gronkowski became the latest recipient of the Ron Burton Community Service Award, recognizing him for his extensive charitable endeavors. Then on Tuesday, his teammates decided via player vote that he should serve as captain this season alongside linebacker Dont’a Hightower, safety Devin McCourty and special teamer Matthew Slater.
“It just comes with the territory,” Gronkowski said. “Just being around here for a few years now — going into my seventh year — just seeing how everything rolls, seeing how everything goes, I’m proud. I’m proud to be in this position and proud to have all my teammates looking up to me. And the same with myself — looking up to my teammates, too, because we just have so many great guys around here.”
Hightower joins Gronkowski as a first-time captain. McCourty and Slater both have served in that role since 2011.
“It’s what the team wanted,” Patriots coach Bill Belichick said Thursday. “Clearly, those guys have a lot of respect and a lot of leadership on the team. That was reflected in what the players felt in choosing them. I think all four guys are good selections. Again, it’s who the team wants, and you can just tell by the votes what the support is.
“And obviously, those four guys have a lot of it, so that’s who it should be.”
Thumbnail photo via Stew Milne/USA TODAY Sports Images