FOXBORO, Mass. — Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski earned a level of national star status during his two-touchdown, neck-bending, pigskin-pounding performance against the Chiefs on Monday Night Football.
Yet Gronkowski took the high road Friday when discussing his newfound stardom — as in, he wouldn't discuss it.
"I'm just worried about the Philadelphia Eagles," Gronkowski said. "We've got another big game this weekend, and that's all that matters."
Not the national attention? The phone calls? The Twitter explosion?
"No, I'm just worried about the Eagles," he said with a big grin. "That's all I'm worried about is their defense."
Gronkowski's bandwagon is more like a party bus that revels in his goofy personality and celebrates with his rugged, smashing style of play that brings back memories from the old school.
And he said he won't play any other way. As Gronkowski scored his second touchdown against the Chiefs, he flipped over a would-be tackler and landed on the side of his head, forcing his neck to twist up like a pretzel and causing the Patriots' medical staff to give him a concussion test on the sideline.
While Gronkowski admitted it was a little rattling to see the replay of the crash landing, he said that — or any type of hit, for that matter — won't change the way he plays the game.
"No, not really," Gronkowski said. "I'm blessed that I'm fine from it and everything, but I definitely don't feel like I'm going to change anything."
Gronkowski's popularity wouldn't be nearly as widespread if he didn't back up his personality with performance, and he's got loads of both. He has scored 20 touchdowns faster than any tight end in history (26 games), and he has become the most dangerous red-zone weapon in the NFL.
Since Gronkowski entered the league as a second-round pick in 2010, he's caught more red-zone touchdown passes (17) than anyone in the league. He also has 11 touchdowns receptions of 10 yards or less, which is the most in the NFL in that span.
His size — he's listed at 6-foot-6 and 265 pounds — makes him a natural asset in the red zone.
"I know I'm not faster than a lot of people, mostly everyone on the field," Gronkowski said. "I'm not faster than the skill-[position] players, so it's basically just using your size. When you're condensed, speed really doesn't matter because everyone is right there in an area. You've got to use your size, and that's what I'm blessed with is the size. I'm bigger than most defenders. I've just got to box them out and get big."
And that's what has happened. As of last week, Gronkowski was the Pro Bowl's leading vote-getter among tight ends, which is a nod to his on-field ability and his immense popularity between the lines and outside the stadium.
And to think, at just 22 years old, Gronkowski has a long time to keep building upon the stardom that has continued to explode on nearly a weekly basis in the last month.
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