It seems Glenn Gronkowski can’t go anywhere without someone asking about his brother Rob.
It’s already happened multiple times this week at the Senior Bowl.
“You meet someone, you say the last name, and they automatically ask,” said Gronkowski, now a former Kansas State fullback.
Rob Gronkowski, of course, is the four-time Pro Bowl tight end of the New England Patriots, a man whose ball skills, competitiveness and athleticism have made him the NFL’s best at his position. Just during the 2015 regular season, the man Pats fans lovingly call “Gronk” caught 72 passes for 1,176 yards and 11 touchdowns.
But while Rob is certainly the most well known of the five Gronkowski brothers — three of whom played in the NFL and one of whom played professional baseball — it is Glenn, the youngest of the clan, who is trying to make a name for himself this week against some of the nation’s best college football players.
“Doesn’t bother me,” Glenn Gronkowski said, when asked about the weight of his family name. “I’ve seen them all work hard first-hand. Just to be part of this family is awesome — they definitely deserve everything they have.
“The people we are, we love having fun — always nice to each other, and we’re never in trouble with the law. Just to be a part of a family like that, it’s something special.”
Gronkowski started all 13 games as a redshirt junior in 2015, rushing 11 times for 45 yards and a touchdown. He also caught five passes for 76 yards and a touchdown, all while lining up exclusively at fullback.
Gronkowski, 22, actually had another year of eligibility left at K-State. But with a 3.8 GPA — not to mention two degrees and a minor already in his pocket — he figured the time was now to chase the NFL dream, especially since he can always join the family business (his father and uncle started a successful fitness equipment company) if it doesn’t work out.
“To get my master’s, obviously that would be something special,” Gronkowski said. “But in my family, we all fall back on the family business, eventually. We’re doing very, very good in that, and we have a couple other (businesses) we’ve already started. So I’m definitely going to fall back on that, so a master’s wasn’t really worth it.”
There was also a football component to his decision to turn pro. This year, Gronkowski began sharing reps with Winston Dimel — who had 347 total yards and scored eight touchdowns in 2015.
“I was actually getting a couple less reps, so I didn’t really see that changing senior year,” Gronkowski said. “I played pretty well my freshman, sophomore and junior years, and I just thought it was time to come out.”
Gronkowski’s agent reached out to Senior Bowl director Phil Savage in early January and expressed Gronkowski’s interest in playing if a spot opened up.
“And sure enough, one did,” Savage said. “I just thought, what a head start for him. There’s 101 other juniors out there that are waiting for the (NFL Scouting) Combine and he gets to jump right in, feet first, and see what this is all about.”
Savage thinks teams will be intrigued by Gronkowski’s potential versatility.
“Most teams are moving away from the classic fullback, so it’s the versatility plus the idea of playing special teams,” Savage said. “I thought he was an intriguing part of a roster for somebody, perhaps.”
Gronkowski lined up at fullback during the South team’s first practice of the week Tuesday. However, he also lined up as an inline tight end, h-back and slot receiver.
“I was only used as a fullback at K-State — I wish I was used more,” Gronkowski said. “I think that’s why this is a huge opportunity for me to be here and show them that I could do other things than just play fullback.”
One of the highlights of Gronkowski’s career is a 62-yard catch-and-run touchdown in 2014. The play is an example of the athleticism he hopes to bring to the NFL.
“Just being versatile and dynamic,” Gronkowski said, when asked to name his best football trait. “I want to move around. Like I said, I didn’t do much of that in college, but that’s what I want to do — help a team take up a couple of (roles) and open up some other (roster spots) for other players to come in.
“I think that’s what I’m made to do, that’s what my body is made to do, also help out a lot on special teams — that’s just as big a part of the game as offense and defense. So I think I brought a lot to the table.”
Gronkowski was measured at 6 feet, 2 1/4 inches and 238 pounds during the Senior Bowl weigh-ins Tuesday morning. Physically, he looks the part of an NFL fullback or h-back.
“Gronk was built well,” said Eric Galko of OptimumScouting.com. “He’s such a smooth athlete ... I think he measures out to be an h-back and not a tight end probably.”
To be sure, however, it can be difficult for a tight end his size to succeed as a blocker attached to the line of scrimmage in the NFL. Defensive ends are longer than ever, and tight ends have to be able to block.
But that won’t keep Gronkowski from trying this week.
“I’ve never done anything like that — ever,” Gronkowski said of blocking on the line. “Even just the basic calls, I don’t even understand yet. So I’m trying to learn a brand-new offense in one day, plus all those calls and everything. It’s crazy, especially playing four different positions at the same time. So definitely a lot to learn, but I think it will help me.”
Gronkowski gets plenty of reminders that it is possible. Given all the questions he receives about Rob and the rest of his brothers, he’s always aware that playing football is practically in his blood.
“Absolutely, you want to prove you can do it,” Gronkowski said. “I’ve always been labeled ... people think things are handed to me. But I need to go out there and prove them wrong. There’s always people that say stuff about you. I just want to go out there and prove them wrong, and that’s what motivates you.”
Glenn Gronkowski scouting report
He doesn’t offer the elite length and ball skills his All-Pro brother does, but he does offer similar tenacity, consistently powerful and well-placed hand positioning and finishing ability as a blocker as Rob does. While he didn’t get a chance to catch passes often, Gronkowski showcases a clear comfort-ability in adjusting his body to finish catches away from his frame.
Eric Galko, @OptimumScouting.com