120 Players To Know - Arizona's R. Gronkowski

Posted Mar 26, 2009

Who are the players you need to know about? Maybe they've been under the radar, or maybe they're the future NFL stars who'll be a really big deal next April. Get to know the stars of 2009 as CFN profiles 120 Players You Need To Know over 120 days (one for each team) continuing with Arizona TE Rob Gronkowski.

120 Players You Need To Know

Arizona TE Rob Gronkowski

By Richard Cirminiello

Who is Rob Gronkowski? … There are maybe a dozen or so truly unique athletes that stand out in college football heading into the 2009 season. Gronkowski is one of them. He’s way too big for defensive backs and way too nimble for linebackers, a rare combination for a tight end. Two years since graduating from high school, he’s already caught 75 passes for 1,197 yards and 16 touchdowns, setting all kinds of school records along the way. The fearless kid from just outside Buffalo is flourishing in the desert, already raising questions whether he’s about to embark on his final year as an amateur. While clearly built for the next level, the NFL will have to wait at least one more year before it gets a hold of Gronkowski. Always seeking new challenges, he has a few more immediate goals in mind, like helping lead the Wildcats to another bowl game and fine-tuning the little things that often go unnoticed. A bona fide star at a position that rarely produces them, he’s the most compelling thing to happen to Arizona football since Desert Swarm was all the rage in the 1990s.    

Rob Gronkowski’s best game so far was … last Oct. 15 versus Oregon. The Ducks went into this game determined to stop Gronkowski at all costs. Back to the drawing board. The sophomore ate up the Oregon defense for a career-high dozen catches for 143 yards and a touchdown. Even when two defenders got on him, he was able to find the soft spot in the Duck D.

Why you should care about Rob Gronkowski? … He’s one of the most exciting tight ends to play college football in a long time, an All-America candidate, and a first-day draft choice in either 2010 or 2011. While most big-play tight ends are built like beefy wide receivers, Gronkowski is a hulking 6-6, 270-pounder with the gait to burn defenses down the seam. He makes all of the catches, and has averaged a whopping 16 yards a reception in his first two seasons in Tucson.

Positives about Rob Gronkowski … There are plenty of players with Gronkowski’s unique athletic ability. None of them, however, are 6-6 and 270 pounds. A freakish confluence of size, speed, and Gumby-like flexibility, he’s a matchup nightmare every time he runs a pattern. Years of training have given him the soft hands and eye-hand coordination of a possession receiver, allowing him to gently pluck balls out of the air. At his size, he does 360-degree dunks, a testament to his strange blend of physical gifts.

Negatives about Rob Gronkowski … Although he’s come a long way since his freshman year, Gronkowski still has room for growth running routes and blocking downfield. His patterns can be a little sloppy at times and need to be tighter beginning this fall. While he has the size and strength of many linemen, the goal in 2009 will be to hold his blocks a little longer, helping spring teammates for bigger plays.

A cool thing about Rob Gronkowski you probably didn’t know … Gronkowski is just a part of one of the most athletic families in the country. His dad, Gordon, was an offensive guard with Syracuse in the 1980s. His grandfather and great-grandfather were world-class cyclists, the latter taking part in the 1924 Paris Olympics. Brother Dan is a tight end on his way to the NFL. Brother Chris is top-tier fullback at Arizona. Brother Gordy is a minor league baseball pitcher. Brother Glenn, only 16, is about to become the fifth of Gordon and Diane’s sons to receive an athletic scholarship.  

Career Statistics
2007: 28 receptions for 525 yards and six touchdowns
2008: 47 receptions for 672 yards and 10 touchdowns

Statistics, information and photo provided by the Arizona sports information department