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DelVecchio: Gronkowski’s Hall of Fame career comes to an end

| Thursday, March 28, 2019

After nine seasons with the New England Patriots, Rob Gronkowski announced his retirement from the NFL this past Sunday via an Instagram post, effectively putting a cap on the career in which he transformed the tight end position and served as one of the league’s most colorful personalities.

Since joining the Patriots after being selected in the second round of the 2010 NFL Draft, Gronk’s 79 receiving touchdowns is a franchise record, and his 10 or more touchdown receptions in five separate seasons ranks as the most among tight ends in NFL history. Gronkowski played in 115 regular-season games, totaling 521 receptions for 7,861 yards. He played in 14 playoff games, with 81 receptions for 1,163 yards and 12 touchdowns — all records for a tight end. His 12 touchdowns in the playoffs is tied for second in NFL history among all players, behind only Hall of Fame wide receiver Jerry Rice, who had 22 (and played in 11 more seasons than Gronk). Furthermore, his four career 100-yard receiving efforts in the playoffs ties him with Vernon Davis and Keith Jackson for the most among NFL tight ends.

On a per-game basis, Gronk is the most productive tight end in NFL history, which is why I believe he will join Gale Sayers and Jim Brown as the only two players inducted into the Hall of Fame at age 35 or younger. Gronk’s retirement poses a huge loss to the Patriots, who are coming off yet another Super Bowl victory, but his presence off the field is what made Gronk such a loved player by fans, coaches and players alike.

In response to his retirement announcement, Patriots owner Robert Kraft said, “In the nine years that I have known Rob Gronkowski, I have never known him to have a bad day. … He always has a youthful exuberance about him and is a joy to be around. As a player, he earned the respect of his coaches and teammates for his hard work, preparation, selfless attitude and the sheer dominance of his game.”

Patriots head coach Bill Belichick also expressed his appreciation for what Gronk brought to the table day in and day out, and noted that he was a key component in the three championships he won while a member of the Patriots.

“Rob’s impact on our team and organization was felt in many ways,” Belichick said. “In the ultimate team sport, Rob was a great, great teammate. His production spoke for itself, but his daily attitude, unmistakably positive energy wherever he went and toward whoever he touched will never be forgotten. Rob will leave an indelible mark on the Patriots organization and the game as among the best, most complete players at his position to ever play.”

In 2011, Gronk set NFL single-season records for touchdowns (17) and receiving yards (1,327) by a tight end and became the first tight end to lead the conference in scoring with 108 points. In the same season, he would’ve graded out as the fourth-best run blocker in the league among offensive tackles, which is a part of his game that is often overlooked. The fact of the matter is, Gronk was equally effective as both a blocker and pass-catcher.

When the news made it to social media, NFL players and coaches spoke out about their skepticism regarding Gronk’s decision, noting that they will “believe it when they see it.” At 29 years old, Gronk seemed to only be getting started, but the 6-foot-6, 265-pounder from Amherst, New York, is known for having a lengthy injury history, and got surgeries on his back, forearm and knee throughout his career. Suffering from injuries is something that can have a serious effect on mood, and abusing your body is something that every NFL player — but especially tight-ends — have to learn to deal with. Unfortunately, more often than not there’s more to a retirement than it being solely a football decision.

I would say now’s the time to admit the fact that I am a Giants fan, and took no particular liking to watching Gronk and the Patriots run over the competition in his nine seasons as a pro. Yet, despite my own personal biases, it would be foolish of me to deny Gronk’s greatness, and I firmly believe that despite his short career, Gronk has done more than enough to solidify himself as a first-ballot Hall of Famer. The Patriots and football fans everywhere will miss the energy Gronk brought to the table on a weekly basis, but I’m sure safeties around the league are all taking sighs of relief right about now.

About Grant DelVecchio

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