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Gronk talks “Party” Reputation, College Experience

On Tuesday night, students filled the Stephen C. O’Connell Center with red and blue.

For a couple of hours, New England Patriots and Tampa Bay Buccaneers fans coexisted at the O’Connell Center. ACCENT Speakers Bureau’s final show of the semester featured legendary National Football League tight end, Rob Gronkowski.

Gronkowski, also known as “Gronk,” won four Super Bowls with the Patriots and the Buccaneers. In his eleven seasons in the NFL, he ranks 12th all-time in regular season touchdown receptions and has hit the most career postseason receiving yards by a tight end with 1,389.

UF journalism professor Ted Spiker moderated the event. About 300 students filled the arena.

“#Unretire,” one poster read.

Gronkowski grew up with four brothers, three of which also went on to play in the NFL.

“We should be in the basement playing mini sticks,” he said. “We were never on the computer, we were just always outside.”

Spiker asked Gronkowski about his reputation for partying.

“I’ve learned some tough lessons in life coming to practice hungover,” Gronkowski said. “There’s always a time or place to go out … never let it interfere with your jobs or athletics.”

“Where is the craziest place you woke up after a Super Bowl?” Spiker said.

“The airport. Two nights later,” Gronkowski responded.

Gronkowski attended the University of Arizona, where he played two college seasons and set team records.

“My college experience was like a movie, basically,” he said. “The one thing I would have changed is to take care of myself.”

Gronkowski’s adjustment from college football to the NFL was difficult, he said. In his rookie year, the Patriots didn’t trust his knowledge of the playbook until his 10th game.

Brynn Dubin, a 19-year-old UF political science freshman, arrived at the O’Connell Center around 3:30 p.m., nearly three hours before the doors opened. Dubin donned a Gronkowski jersey as she sat in the rain outside the building to achieve a front-row spot.

“I’ve been a Gronk fan for literally as long as I can remember,” she said. “I have an older brother who was a big Tom Brady fan, and then after that, I just felt like I had to like Gronk, so I’ve just always been a fan.”

Gronkowski sustained several injuries during his tenure, and he speculated about his potential case of Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, a brain disease caused by repeated concussions.

“You gotta not think about [CTE]. It’s not even talked about in the locker room,” he said. “You gotta be fearless out in the field.”

Spiker asked Gronkowski about his friendship with former quarterback Tom Brady — their friendship has been highly publicized throughout their time on the Patriots and Buccaneers.

“He’s an emotional guy,” he said. “In a good way. He’s very caring… he loves football so much. You gotta love the game that much to be the best player in the game.”

Gronkowski retired in 2022 and now dabbles in yoga and pickleball, he said. However, he said the adjustment was a major one.

“We were athletes our entire lives, and it’s a difficult transition to go from being a star to having nothing going on,” Gronkowski said.

Gronkowski now works as an on-air analyst for Fox Sports, where Tom Brady has signed as a broadcast host starting in 2024.

He ended the show with his signature “Gronk spike” — smashing a water bottle onto the ground with maximum splash.

“I’ve always wanted to spike a football in high school or college,” Gronkowski said about his famous “Gronk spike.” “I finally got to the NFL… when I got to my second year, I just kept spiking it. I don’t even remember why it caught on.”

Contact Peyton at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @peytonlharris.

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