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The Big Gronkowski; The Greatest Season in History!
Rob Gronkowski has undeniably had the greatest season in NFL history at the tight end position. He has shattered several NFL records and tied multiple other ones. Let's take a look back at this amazing season that is still yet to be complete for #87 along with his short two year career in which he has burst onto the scene and taken the NFL by storm.
Draft Day Rob-bery
When draft day 2010 came around the Patriots were once again well positioned to dominate. Much like they had done over the past decade. The Patriots held the upper hand with 2 first round picks, 3 second round picks, not to mention a myriad of other multiple high draft picks.
After it was all said and done that year they ended up drafting one first rounder, three second rounders, 1 third through 6th rounder, and a seventh round pick. Other notable players the Patriots acquired on that day were corner back Devin McCourty (1st), who despite his regression in year two made the pro bowl as a rookie with 7 interceptions, linebacker Brandon Spikes(2nd), tight end Aaron Hernandez(4th), punter Zoltan Mesko(5th), and defensive lineman Brandon Deaderick(7th).
However, with all those high caliber players, that was not the biggest splash the Patriots made that afternoon. Early in the second round, the Patriots once again got over on the Oakland Raiders, much like they did when they traded for Randy Moss while only giving up a fourth round pick. Moss went on to score an NFL record 23 touchdowns receiving the next season and helped the Patriots secure the only 16-0 Regular Season in league history before coming up just one game short of a perfect 19-0 season in the Super Bowl.
The Patriots traded the 190th pick overall, a 6th rounder, and one of their second round picks, 44th overall, to the Oakland Raiders for the rights to the 42nd pick. The Patriots almost never traded up to acquire a draft choice, choosing instead to almost always trade down. However, now we see why they did what they did. With that selection, they chose tight end from Arizona, Rob Gronkowski, who should have been a high first round talent, but had experienced some injury problems at Arizona, which caused his draft stock to fall. What the Patriots clearly saw was a monstrous 6'6" 265 lb. player who appeared to have immense potential with his large frame, amazing leaping ability, excellent hands, blocking potential, and wide catch radius.
Good thing for the Patriots though, as he would go on to have the single greatest season of any tight end in NFL history. In the process, he would become one of the most dominant forces in the game.
The Big Gronkowski
Once a Patriot, Gronkowski wasted no time making his presence felt on offense. During the Patriots week 1 match up in 2010, Gronkowski scored his first career touchdown. It was the beginning of a dominant NFL career that would only get better with time.
During his rookie campaign he played in all 16 games for the Patriots. He also averaged a solid 13 yards per reception. He hauled in 42 balls for 546 yards. But the best part was that he scored a whopping 10 touchdowns. Brady was gaining confidence in his young beast of a tight end, but that was just a small sign of things to come.
Then came 2011. Expectations were high, but no one held higher expectations than Gronkowski. #87 didn't even have the benefit of one NFL off season to prepare, as the lock out threatened to set both rookies and second year players back due to no off season programs by NFL clubs. However, this clearly did not affect #87.
He came out with a vengeance. In his first three games, in 2011, Gronkowski compiled a whopping 17 catches for 281 yards and 5 touchdowns. However, this was just the beginning.
The Sleeping Giant
Unbelievably, Gronkowski went the next 4 games without a touchdown, but this is not to say his presence was not felt. He also displayed his amazing blocking skils that were in part due to his physical prowess and his tutelage under former pro bowl tight end Alge Crumpler during his rookie campaign. He also amassed 19 catches for 214 yards in that stretch.
In his first of four games without a touchdown, Gronkowski dominated in the run game and helped his squad rush 30 times for over 180 yards against the Oakland Raiders. This provided his team with a 6.1 yard per carry average in that game, a truly ridiculous number.
He did not stop the next week when he again helped the Patriots dominate the Jets on the ground. The beneficiary was BenJarvus Green-Ellis, who rushed for 136 yards and 2 scores to help the Patriots defeat their hated division rivals, the Jets.
The Big Bouncer
Against the Giants in week 9, Gronkowski got back on track and began a dominating touchdown spree that saw him accumulate 10 scores over the next 6 weeks. During that time, he also caught 35 passes from Tom Brady. He accumulated a whopping 593 yards during that span. Players bounced off of him left and right and were left in his wake.
His greatest game during that run, came against the Washington Redskins. In that contest Gronk hauled in 6 catches for 160 yards and two scores. The most amazing part of that performance however, was when he seemed to surely be tackled by two Redskins defenders, who inevitably bounced right off of Gronkowski and fell to the ground like rag dolls.
During that game, Gronkowski broke the NFL all time record for touchdowns by a tight end, which was 13. It had been formerly held by both San Diego's Antonio Gates and San Francisco's Vernon Davis.
The scariest moment of that stretch came in a dominating performance in Kansas City. During that game New England fans, players, and coaches held their collective breaths when Gronkowski bounced neck first into the playing field while doing a flip over a defender to try and score. Luckily for all involved, he was uninjured on that play.
Rob Gronkowski didn't stop there though. Not only did he break the record for most touchdowns by a tight end, he shattered the mark. He ended the season with another 2 touchdowns in the Buffalo game, which saw his total climb to a whopping 17 touchdowns.
He also broke New England's franchise record for most touchdowns by a single player both running and receiving. This record was truly unexpected as one seemingly passing touchdown was called a lateral from Tom Brady and changed to a rushing touchdown. This gave him 18 on the season, which broke former New England running back Curtis Martin's mark.
Additionally, on the last game of the season, Gronkowski also broke another all time NFL mark by a tight end. This was a mark that had lasted approximately 30 years. He ended up with 1,327 yards on the season, breaking Hall of Fame tight end Kellen Winslow's mark of 1,287 yards.
With his record breaking season he has amassed unbelievable stats in his first two seasons. All told, Gronkowski has already caught 132 balls in his short NFL career. He has racked up 1,873 yards through the air. This is on top of his whopping 27 regular season touchdowns. This has all been accomplished in only 32 games, which is quite a feat!
Just Take Those Old Records Off the Shelf
However, Gronkowski was not done tying or breaking records. During his first playoff game of 2012 he continued to shine. In the Patriots divisional round 45-10 thumping of the Denver Broncos, Gronkowski both tied an NFL all time record and set a new franchise record.
His three touchdown catches set a new Patriots franchise record. His three touchdowns also tied Dave Casper for the all time mark in a single playoff game. With his performance, he helped the Patriots win their first playoff game in 4 seasons and end a 3 game playoff drought.
He went on to help the Patriots defeat the Baltimore Ravens the next week and win the AFC Championship securing both the Lamar Hunt Trophy and their seventh Super Bowl berth in franchise history.
During that game, the infamous Bernard Pollard, the same player who injured Tom Brady's knee that kept him out of the 2008 campaign, fell on Gronkowski's ankle forcing him to leave the game with what is now being reported as a high ankle sprain. He did however, return to that contest.
Weather or Not
Whether or not Gronkowski will have a major impact in helping his team advance to their fourth Super Bowl title still remains to be seen. It has been reported that he has a high ankle sprain, which is both a painful and difficult injury to come back from. However, sources close to the situation say that nothing will stop him from playing in Super Bowl XLVI, which will be his first Super Bowl appearance of his career. It will also be the Patriots 5th appearance since 2001.
He will try to help his team beat the Giants and provide a little payback for a miracle comeback by the Giants in Super Bowl XLII. However, despite whether or not the Patriots win or lose, Gronkowski's season will remain as the greatest of all time by a tight end. It was truly the best season in history!