On Sunday, New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski announced that he was retiring from the NFL two months shy of his 30th birthday. We will always be left wondering what might have been, but he has already accomplished so much in a relatively short career.
More importantly, Gronk always made the game a little more fun with his play on the field and his personality off of it. Here are 10 reasons why we will miss him.
1. The Gronk spike
Gronkowski missed his junior season at Arizona because of back surgery and was taken by the Patriots with the 42nd pick in the 2010 NFL Draft. He immediately made his presence known, introducing fans to the now famous Gronk Spike after his second touchdown in the league. The MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference estimates that Gronkowski's spikes were delivered with 650 pounds of force and that seems pretty accurate. Take a look.
2. Revolutionizing the tight end position
Three tight ends have changed the game of pro football. The first was John Mackey, the second was Kellen Winslow, and the third was Gronkowski. At 6-foot-6 and 265 pounds, with the agility of a wide receiver and the size of an offensive lineman, Gronkowski showed that the tight end could be the main weapon in an offense. He and the other tight end the Patriots drafted in 2010, the late Aaron Hernandez, also showed what was possible with a two-tight end set. Tony Gonzalez is the most accomplished tight end to ever play the game, but there will be always be a debate over who was better: him or Gronkowski.
3. League leader in touchdown catches (2011)
Speaking of being the main offensive weapon, Gronkowski ended the 2011 season with 1,327 receiving yards, breaking Jimmy Graham's previous record of 1,310. He also finished with a league-leading 17 touchdown catches. It is the only time a tight end has been the sole leader in that category.
4. ¡Yo soy fiesta!
After beating the Baltimore Ravens in the AFC Championship Game in 2012, Gronkowski was interviewed by a reporter with ESPN Deportes and attempted to conduct the interview in Spanish. He famously said, “¡Yo soy fiesta!,” which translates to, "I am party!" It went viral and Gronkowski later trademarked the phrase.
5. NFL Comeback Player of the Year (2014)
Gronkowski missed much of the 2012 and '13 seasons battling injuries and entered '14 fully healthy with an axe to grind. He caught 82 passes for 1,124 yards and 12 touchdowns as the Patriots went 12-4 and won Super Bowl XLIX. For his effort, he was named NFL Comeback Player of the Year.
6. The covers
If there ever was a player tailor-made for magazine covers, it was Gronk. With his physique, good looks, and fun personality, Gronkowski graced the covers of GQ, Sports Illustrated, Muscle and Fitness, and ESPN The Magazine's "The Body Issue," to name a few. And, of course, he appeared on the cover of Madden NFL 17, delivering his signature spike. That brings us to our next item.
7. Surest. Madden target. Ever.
Unless you spend your weekends practicing your two-minute drill or perfecting the Packer Sweep in the Madden online universe, your likely playing at the Rookie level setting (Pro at best) and your go-to receiver in a pinch is your tight end. Plays like Y Stick, Mesh, and TE Angle are lifesavers as you throw it and let your big man do the work. However, no player in the history of this video game was a more surefire target than Gronk given his size and skills.
8. Most 1,000-yard seasons by a tight end
In 2017, Gronkowski caught 69 passes for 1,084 yards, giving him his fourth season with at least 1,000 receiving yards. The only other player to accomplish this feat was Tony Gonzalez, but he played for 17 seasons, compared to Gronk's nine.
9. Super Bowl LIII
Gronkowski played in four Super Bowls and won two of them. Statistically, his best performance came in Super Bowl LII, where he had 116 yards and two touchdowns in a losing effort to the Philadelphia Eagles. This year, he caught a 29-yard pass in the fourth quarter to bring the Patriots to the Los Angeles Rams' 2-yard line. It set up the only touchdown in New England’s 13-3 win and was fitting way for Gronk to end his career.
10. Off-the-field fun
Whether he was participating in WrestleMania, competing in Drop the Mic, or tagging endangered tiger sharks for "Shark Week," Gronkowski was just pure fun. Here's hoping he gets to have more of it and his best off-the-field days are yet to come.
— Written by Aaron Tallent, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Tallent is a writer whose articles have appeared in The Sweet Science, FOX Sports’ Outkick the Coverage, Liberty Island and The Washington Post. Follow him on Twitter at @AaronTallent.