Rob Gronkowski never has played in a Super Bowl without a pair of Flying Elvises on his helmet.
That will change this Sunday when the surely Hall of Fame-bound tight end takes the field for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Super Bowl LV.
Ahead of that game, Gronkowski was asked how he remembers his nine-year run with the New England Patriots, which included five Super Bowl appearances and three championships.
?Those years in New England mean everything to me,” Gronkowski said Monday in a video conference. “That?s where I started my career. That?s where the legend of Gronk started. That?s where it boomed. I appreciate those times. I am grateful for all those times. Just everything there. I learned so much throughout those times. I feel like I grew throughout those times, throughout my time in New England.”
Gronkowski established himself at arguably the best tight end in NFL history during his Patriots tenure. From the time he was drafted in 2010 until he entered his temporary retirement in 2019, he ranked first among all NFL players in touchdown receptions (79), 11th in receiving yards (7,861) and 17th in catches (521) while also providing elite blocking ability.
The Patriots’ demanding culture and the cumulative toll of numerous injuries and surgeries prompted Gronkowski to step away from the game after the 2018 season. After Tom Brady left New England to sign with Tampa Bay, Gronkowski — who’d previously said he’d never play for another quarterback — opted to unretire and join him, requesting and receiving a trade to the Buccaneers.
Gronkowski’s final game as a Patriot was Super Bowl LIII, during which he caught six passes for 87 yards in a win over the Los Angeles Rams. His final catch: a 29-yard heave from Brady that set up Sony Michel’s game-winning touchdown.
“I feel like I learned so much information just about the game of football, about the game of life, just everything overall throughout my nine years (in New England),” Gronkowski said. “My family, my friends that I met throughout my time there. Just the people. Just everything. Just the atmosphere. Those times are appreciated.
“That will always be in a special place in my heart throughout those nine years that I was there. I have definitely taken some of those lessons I?ve learned and brought them with me to the next chapter in my life, too, and it has definitely helped me out to get to where I am now.”
Many Patriots fans have been vocal in their support for Brady and Gronkowski this postseason, despite both opting to take their talents elsewhere. The Bucs are preparing to face the defending champion Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday.
“It?s pretty cool to be appreciated like that, because when I was up there, I did give everything I had,” Gronkowski said. “I gave everything I had out on the field and I gave everything I had in practice, whatever it was. I gave everything I had when I was at charity events, giving back to the community.
“It?s definitely special, and it settles in a place in my heart when I hear my friends and family say there?s a lot of people up there that are cheering for us and happy for us. It?s definitely pretty special.”