Patriots’ Gronkowski made for spotlight

CHANDLER, Ariz. — Super Bowl Media Day was made for Rob Gronkowski. 

While some play it straight for the cameras and recorders — or say nothing at all in Marshawn Lynch’s case — Gronkowski shines in media-saturated settings where his big, boyish personality can blossom.

"There’s a college kid left in everyone," he said. "If you could go back, you would for a night or two, so why not?"

With his famed party bus rolling into the Valley this week and his naked photo shoot for ESPN The Magazine still fresh in everyone’s mind, there is no denying Gronkowski has accomplished what only a chosen few athletes ever accomplish: he has transcended his sport.

"There’s not many NFL players who are like NFL players/celebrities," Patriots running back LeGarrette Blount said. "For us, there’s him and there’s Tom (Brady). With their body of work, they’ve definitely earned it."

Gronkowski’s body of work is impressive. In the five NFL seasons and 65 games since he left the University of Arizona, he has 308 catches for 4,379 yards and 54 touchdowns. Health permitting, he should move into the top 20 all-time receiving leaders for tight ends next season.

"He’s got great presence, a great understanding of the game and how to get open on different types of cover guys whether they’re big or small," Patriots quarterback Tom Brady said. "Gronk’s done such a great job of kind of refining his own techniques and really going from just a great athlete who catches footballs to really a great tight end that knows how to run routes, knows how to block, takes a lot of pride in those things, understands coverages and understands how to gain leverages."

Without that success, there’s little chance Gronkowski would be enjoying the celebrity status he is. But some guys can’t handle that white-hot attention; Gronkowski can.

"It’s cool," he said. "You can laugh about it, but at the same time you can’t really get caught up in it because you’re here for a job and it’s to win football games. Being on this team, being with the head coach here and the quarterback we have keeps you humble."

Gronkowski’s teammates also play a role.

"I don’t really have much of a part in it, but there have definitely been some blown-up shots posted in the locker room — posted in his locker — of him, usually not with many clothes on," Patriots running back Shane Vereen said. "It’s all good fun and he takes it and he loves it and it’s cool."

Gronkowski is the second youngest of five brothers. That really is the simplest explanation for his fun-loving, frat-boy personality, he said.

"Just growing up with my brothers definitely helped shape who I am to this day," he said. "Every little thing I did growing up as a kid, I was always playing with my brothers and their friends and they were always older than me, and I’d be competing versus them."

It’s fair to say this Gronkowski has entered into a league of his own. None of the other brothers enjoyed NFL success. No one else in the family was rated a sex symbol, and nobody else was asked to pose with kittens for a national publication.

"I know they always make it look good, so I really didn’t mind it," Gronkowski said. "Kittens are cool."

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