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Of course everything is different during this pandemic — a virtual Super Bowl “Opening Night” held before noon for the Buccanners, for example — but the little kid forever inside Rob Gronkowski can help a nation smile, even now, even for just a little while.
“I’m just sitting here in a room by myself right now, like there’s no one around, so like the juices aren’t flowing as much as if you’re in a room with media people going crazy asking questions, fans cheering, music going,” Gronk said Monday. “But the juices still are flowing, it is Super Bowl week, but it is totally different. For a guy like myself, you appreciate all that media, all that attention, like all that excitement, but I mean, we’re in a pandemic right now so you gotta look at the positive side, like this is nice, too. I just walked into a room right out of the locker room, put my gear on and I’m just talking to you over Zoom. So it kinda makes it like a little bit smoother, this process right here.”
There are two sides of Gronk, there is the playful Gronk who is a magnet for young boys and girls, and there is the stone cold Brady-esque assassin who works relentlessly at his craft and burns to be great and stay great.
But with so much tragedy swirling around us, so much COVID, let us allow Gronk to be as much of a temporary cure as he can possibly be.
Former NFL quarterback Trent Dilfer introduced Caleb Byrne, a 12-year-old Super Bowl 2021 reporter, to ask a question.
Gronk: “All right, Caleb, let’s hear it!”
Caleb: “Uh, hi there. Thank you so much and congrats.”
Gronk: “Thank you.”
Caleb: “So my question is, I love watching you play football, but I know in 2016, you hosted a show ‘Crashletes.’ ”
Caleb: “And I was wondering, inside the NFL when you played, did you ever have a Crashlete moment?”
Gronk: “Oh. I would say so yes, definitely. One time in practice — this was my ‘Crashlete’ moment. I was actually a rookie, and I went to go block Vince Wilfork. And if you know who Vince Wilfork is, he’s about 350 pounds, and he can run like a deer. And he knew I was coming to block him, and let me tell you, he hit me back, and I went flying backwards about 10 yards, and that video right there coulda definitely been on ‘Crashletes’ — on what not to do as a rookie.”
All across the NFL during the virtual offseason, strength and conditioning coaches such as Tampa Bay’s Anthony Piroli monitored their players’ progress. Gronk revealed how he was able to pull a fast one on Piroli.
“It was fun for like the first week, filming yourself, sending the video in, making yourself look good, if you felt like that one wasn’t good, ‘I’m gonna make myself look good so he thinks I’m doing everything,’ ” Gronk said. “I just wish we were in person ’cause every time I had to film myself and send it in in order to get credit for the workout and stuff. That was kinda getting a little annoying.
“But then, I started tricking him. Because I would bring my shirt out, and then I would bring another shirt out, so when I’m running the sprints, I would film myself like 15 times for that workout session, but I would run it in a couple of different shirts ’cause you only had to send in like two or three reps. So then when the next time came, I didn’t have to film myself because I already filmed myself running in a different shirt every time on that one day. He doesn’t have a clue to this day that I was tricking him about half the time during those virtual workouts.”
There was a reporter from “Extra,” an annual rite of Super Bowl week.
Extra: “Who was the former NFL player who was on the Bachelorette?”
Gronk: “It was Aaron Rodgers’ brother, right?”
She was thinking more of Dale Moss.
Gronk: “And then the other guy too — he played tight end — Clay Harbor!”
Extra: “Name President Biden’s dogs.”
Gronk: “Oh … Nemo?”
It’s Major and Champ.
Extra: “Who’s performing at halftime?
Gronk: “The Weeknd.”
Extra: “Which star is the ‘Young Rock’ TV show based on?”
Gronk: “I don’t even know that TV show.”
Extra: “Dwayne Johnson has a new show.”
Gronk: “Oh the Rock, like OK. I don’t know, I haven’t heard about this one.”
Extra: “What do Vice President Kamala Harris’ kids call her?”
Gronk: “The Queen.”
Well, to Gronk, the true queen is his mom.
“My mom lives an hour-and-a-half away in Fort Myers, she’s been there for about 10 years, and I just went and visited her yesterday ’cause we had an off day,” Gronk said. “She had just such an unbelievable task when we were growing up. There was five boys. … My mom made sure we were at every practice, we had a meal in between each practice, we had a packed lunch from school to whatever practice we were going to.
“If she couldn’t bring us to practice, she was calling someone to drive us to practice, to pick us up — she was just so great at organizing everywhere we should be. The impact on my life she has made has been tremendous and has just carried over to this day. When I’m leaving her house this morning, she’s got a whole bag packed full of drinks for me, she’s got a breakfast sandwich for me, she’s just still on top of her game.”
He was smiling when he volunteered: “My mom sent me a little meme and it was Tom [Brady] with [Patrick] Mahomes on back of his shoulders like Mahomes is like a baby but in a Kansas City uniform, and it was like ‘Take Your Son to Work Day’ February 7, and it was just classic,” Gronk said, “because Mahomes can could really be Tom’s son.”
He has been heartened to hear that many Patriots fans are rooting for him. As they should.
“All the friends and family I always talk to like, ‘Man, there’s so many people cheering for you up here, it’s great.’ And it’s good to hear, it’s a sense of relief to hear. … It’s pretty cool to be appreciated like that because when I was up there, I did give everything I had,” Gronk said.
He is healthy as can be and has plenty left to give, off the field as well as on.
“I made four videos for four different health care workers that are going to the game,” Gronk said. “It was pretty cool just to be that guy to deliver that message, and just to see the excitement on their face coming from me, it’s pretty special, and it keeps you motivated to want to keep on giving back and doing those things like that.”
Growing up in Buffalo, he would watch Syracuse basketball and dream of the possibilities. And so he was the perfect person to answer a question from a young boy with his own dream:
Play 60 Super Kid Amaya: “What advice would you give someone to help them accomplish their dreams?”
Gronk: “First off, you gotta follow your dreams. You can’t let anyone tell you who you should be or what you should do, you should follow your dreams to the fullest and then when you’re following your dreams, you gotta work hard at ’em, you gotta get advice from other people. Ask other people that are already at that level on what they did: How did they get there? And ask a few people, because there’s many ways to get to the highest level, there’s many ways to accomplish your dreams. You gotta figure out what works best for you and you’ve gotta also dig deep and dive right into it. Go full speed on what you want to do and don’t let anything get in the way, and work as hard as you possibly can to get to your dreams.”
But there’s only one Gronk.
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