FOXBORO, Mass. — The Buffalo Bills selected a defensive tackle named Torell Troup with the 41st overall pick in the 2010 NFL Draft. He played in 21 career games, made 31 tackles and was out of the league by 2014.
The 42nd pick in that draft? Buffalo-area native Rob Gronkowski, who has spent the past eight years making his hometown team pay for passing on him.
Gronkowski, who went to the AFC East rival New England Patriots on draft day, has racked up more receiving yards and touchdowns against the Bills in his career than against any other opponent.
Three weeks ago, the big tight end caught nine passes for 149 yards as the Patriots cruised to a road win in Gronkowski’s old stomping grounds. On Sunday, he helped deliver New England an early Christmas present by snagging five receptions on seven targets for 67 yards and one of the most impressive touchdown catches of the 2017 Patriots season in a 37-16 win at Gillette Stadium.
“It’s cool when your hometown team passed on you twice in that draft,” Gronkowski said after the game. “You kind of remember it still. No lie, I remember it every single time I play them.”
Asked about his stellar career numbers against Buffalo (66 catches, 1,027 yards, 12 touchdowns in 13 games), Gronkowski replied:
“Uhh, sorry to them for that.”
Gronkowski’s touchdown Sunday was a thing of beauty.
Lined up split wide to the left, he dashed down the sideline, slowed down near the goal line and used one hand to haul in a back-shoulder throw from quarterback Tom Brady. Pro Bowl safety Micah Hyde had no chance despite applying almost perfect coverage on the play.
“I was trying to give him a chance,” Brady said. “It was man coverage. I was trying to give him a back shoulder, and it was probably a foot further back than I wanted to. He?s just an incredible player. He made the catch and got his feet in. It was a huge play in the game.”
Gronkowski, who also drew a defensive pass interference penalty in the end zone that set up another Patriots touchdown, needs 11 catches or 116 receiving yards against the New York Jets next Sunday to reach the highest benchmarks in his contract and earn an extra $2.5 million. He also can do so by earning first-team All-Pro honors.