Rob Gronkowski

New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski was among the most popular players in the franchise, thanks to his happy-go-lucky, hard-partying persona and his record of 69 touchdowns in six seasons, which placed him in the National Football League (NFL) history books. Born Robert Paxton Gronkowski in Amherst, New York on May 14, 1989, he was the second youngest of five brothers, all of whom pursued amateur or professional careers in football or baseball. He showed exceptional promise as a high school athlete at Willamsville North High School, near Buffalo, New York; there, he earned 36 receptions for 648 yards and seven touchdowns, which won him a spot on the All-State second team. When the family moved to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in 2006, Gronkowski continued to prove himself on the field, where he recorded eight receptions for 152 yards and four touchdowns in his senior year alone. His war chest of superlatives, including SuperPrep All-American and Associated Press Class 4-A All-State, attracted the attention of recruiters from numerous state colleges. Gronkowski attended the University of Arizona, where he played for the Wildcats from 2007 to 2009; in his freshman year, he earned 28 receptions for 525 yards and six touchdowns, which led to freshman All-American status from The Sporting News, among other laurels. He was twice named John Mackey National Tight End of the week in 2008 for recording 47 receptions for 672 yards and a team-best ten touchdowns, and made the watchlist for the Lombardi Award in 2009, though the year was cut short by back surgery. Though the injury hampered his draft standing, Gronkowski was selected by the New England Patriots in the second round of the 2010 NFL Draft, and signed a four-year contract with the franchise. He immediately established himself by becoming the youngest rookie in NFL history to catch three touchdown passes in a single game. Gronkowski closed his first year with the Patriots with 42 passes caught for 546 yards and 10 touchdowns, and surpassed his entire year's record for reception and yardage in the first eight games of his 2011 season. He would go on to set another record that year, for most touchdowns scored by a tight end in a single season (18), which minted him as starting tight end for the American Football Conference (AFC) at the 2012 Pro Bowl; an ankle injury reduced his efficacy in the Patriots' bid for Super Bowl XLVI, which the team lost to the New York Giants, 21-17. He rebounded for the start of the 2012 season, again setting records as the first tight end to ever score at least 10 touchdown receptions in consecutive seasons. His remarkable record, combined with a reputation for boyish antics and hard partying, made him a favorite among Patriots followers, sports writers and advertisers alike, who tapped Gronkowski to represent a wide variety of sports drinks and ephemera. He would lose most of 2013 to arm and knee injuries, which required multiple surgeries, but Gronkowski rebounded spectacularly for 2014, logging nine passes for 149 yards and three touchdowns by the eighth week. He would go on to boost the Patriots' win over the Seattle Seahawks at Super Bowl XLIX and was named tight end for both the Pro Bowl and All-Pro Team. The following year got off to another stellar star, with 34 receptions for 533 yards and six touchdowns within the first six games; a minor knee injury held Gronkowski back for a week, but he helped bring the Patriots to the AFC Championships, netting eight catches for 144 yards and a touchdown before the team was sunk by a two-point conversion. In 2016, he continued his winning streak by breaking Patriots franchise records with his 69th regular season touchdown, which was also his 68th receiving touchdown.