Much to the relief of defensive coordinators, end zones and footballs — and to the dismay of party boats, keg suppliers and content aggregators — Rob Gronkowski announced Tuesday that he was (again) retiring from the N.F.L. This time, he means it.
Gronkowski revealed his plans on Instagram, where he often shares merry tidbits of his merry life, reminiscent of the Gronk Beach extravaganza in Las Vegas and clips promoting the Nickelodeon Kids’ Alternative Awards, which he co-hosted in April. In fact he did.
Across his 11 N.F.L. seasons, Gronkowski, 33, a really serious football player with a really unserious personality, leavened the stodgy league with kind of a playful destructiveness. His joie de vivre spawned countless memes, perhaps none more endearing than his “Yo soy fiesta!” exclamation — butchered Spanish that translates to “I’m party!” — after a playoff game in 2012.
His onomatopoeic surname begot the right nickname for a 6-foot-6, 265-pound tight end, as Gronk joined the lexicon as a noun, verb and, sometimes, even an adjective. Were he prosaically named, say, Herman Weissman, Gronkowski might never have emerged as quite the phenomenon that he did. As an alternative, he oozed gronkness, celebrating touchdowns by gronking Gronk spikes. He gronked plenty: 92 within the regular season, greater than every other player since he debuted in 2010, based on Pro Football Reference, and 15 more within the postseason.
Blessed with enormous hands — from thumb to pinkie, they measure 10¾ inches, nearly so long as a football — Gronkowski leveled pass-rushers, stampeded safeties, and grabbed passes over cornerbacks, as marvelous a blocker as a receiver. Redefining his position, he was named an All-Pro 4 times and was chosen to 5 Pro Bowls.
He won 4 Super Bowls. Three got here with Latest England, where his body eventually betrayed him and hindered him from maximum gronking. He tore a knee ligament, broke his forearm, hurt his back.
All that discomfort prompted him to retire, the primary time, after the 2018 season, before he turned 30. He spent the interregnum — as expected — at wrestling events, promoting cannabidiol products as pain relievers and dealing on his charitable foundation. But, coaxed back by his old pal and former Patriots teammate Tom Brady (and Florida’s forgiving climate), Gronkowski joined the Buccaneers in 2020, catching two touchdowns in Tampa Bay’s Super Bowl victory against Kansas City that season.
“While his on-field accomplishments will certainly earn him a gold jacket and a spot within the Pro Football Hall of Fame,” Buccaneers General Manager Jason Licht said in an announcement, “it’s his humble attitude and team-first approach to the sport that really defined his profession.”
Gronkowski will almost actually be enshrined in Canton, Ohio, in five years, when he’s first eligible, presuming he indeed stays retired this time. It isn’t difficult to assume his shearing off the sleeves of the Hall’s signature gold jacket to flaunt his bulging muscles. Perhaps he’ll wear it over a bare chest, an homage to his shirtless cavorting during all those Super Bowl championship parades. That may be the gronkest thing ever.