Not Just Another Gronk: Rob's Little Bro Glenn on a Different Path to the NFL

Dan PompeiNFL ColumnistApril 21, 2016

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - FEBRUARY 25: Fullback Glenn Gronkowski #11 of Kansas State speaks to the media during the 2016 NFL Scouting Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium on February 25, 2016 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
Bleacher Report

Somewhere at sea in February, Rob Gronkowski was gyrating, bopping and grooving. The bass was turned up so high, the dolphins must have felt it. 

The man known as Gronk was shirtless, wearing shades, a Zubaz bandana and a ball cap that read "HYPE." He was doing cartwheels and passing around a beer bong and signing autographs on body parts that are usually kept covered. The Norwegian Pearl had transformed into Gronk's Party Ship, offering passengers the opportunity to get GRONK'D! And who among us does not appreciate an opportunity to get GRONK'D!?

Missing from the 2,500 revelers was Glenn Gronkowski.

As the party ship swayed, Rob's little brother, who's been commonly called "Baby Gronk" as the youngest of the five Gronkowski brothers, was preparing to do other things associated with the family name: namely, working out to prepare for an NFL career (older brother Chris also made the league as a fullback, and older brother Dan made it as a tight end) and studying to prepare for a role in the family fitness equipment sales business.

To say the latest Gronk to hit the NFL is not just a smaller version of the NFL's top tight end is an understatement. "Opposites" is what their dad, Gordy Gronkowski, calls them.

Rob has been known to dance on the bar. Glenn, whom the family calls "Goose" for reasons no one can remember, spent his college years working behind the bar.

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"Goose is sort of quiet, not like Rob, who is out there in front of everybody," Gordy said. "He's more laid-back. He was the easiest of the boys. He does the right things all the time. Never gave me any trouble. Never did anything bad. Never got called in to school on him. Rob was that guy who stirred things up."

Michael Conroy/Associated Press

Quiet? Laid-back? Easy?

"He is a more conservative type of kid, more laid-back," Rob said. "He goes with the flow. He's very humble. He will never brag."

Some of Goose's college teammates called him "Gronk," but that's not him. He's not the Baby Gronk, either. He's almost the anti-Gronk.

What was Goose studying as his brother partied?

He wasn't cramming for finals, if that's what you're thinking. The 23-year-old Gronkowski had already graduated from Kansas State and was preparing to earn his insurance license. In fact, he graduated cum laude with two majors—marketing and business—with a minor in leadership. He had a 3.8 grade point average. He had another year of athletic eligibility remaining, but the NFL was waiting.

Goose didn't leave himself a lot of time for partying during his college days.

"It wasn't easy balancing football and having a job," he said. "But it was worth it for a few extra dollars."

During the football season, his day typically began with a 5:30 a.m. wake-up call (anyone seen Rob at that time?) followed by a lifting session at 6 a.m., class at 8 a.m., football meetings at 2:30 p.m., practice at 4 p.m., dinner at 7 p.m. and homework at 8 p.m.

Dana Dimel knows his Gronkowskis. He coached Rob and Chris at Arizona as tight ends/running backs coach, and he coached Goose at Kansas State as co-offensive coordinator and running backs/tight ends coach. From the standpoint of a coach-player relationship, Dimel said Goose is a lot like Chris, but not much like Rob.

"Glenn takes everything very literal in the coaching sense," Dimel said. "Rob is more freelance, let's have fun. Rob wants to fly by the seat of his pants. He takes pride in studying the game, but he'll be the first one to tell you he can only go about 45 minutes at a time, then he has to break. You can't keep his attention for longer than that. Glenn and Chris can sit there and study all night long. Glenn is very technical and detail-oriented."

Athletically, Rob and Goose provide an interesting contrast. Rob clearly is the more gifted football player. But—surprise—Goose is the better athlete, according to those who know them best. In fact, Gordy Gronkowski testifies that Goose is the most athletic of all his boys. (The eldest Gronkowski boy, Gordie Jr., was drafted by the Los Angeles Angels.)

"Goose wasn't as good as Rob in one sport, but he was always at the top of the group in skiing, basketball, baseball, hockey, football—no matter what he did," their father said. "He was way above average in everything."

At 6'2", 239 pounds, Goose is four inches shorter and 26 pounds lighter than Rob. As part of an impressive combine, Goose ran the 40-yard dash in 4.71 seconds. At Rob's pro day, he clocked in at 4.68.

Darron Cummings/Associated Press

But Rob marvels at Goose's athletic versatility.

"He played so many different sports that he became a pure overall athlete," Rob said. "Go out and let's play some volleyball, he'll be competitive and very good at it. Ping-Pong, he'll have skills at that."

In high school, Goose was a three-sport athlete. He played center on the basketball team. In fact, he still can dunk. In baseball, he played center field and said he batted .670 as a senior.

In a tryout for the Dodgers, he said he hit five home runs in 20 swings. Goose was hoping to get drafted to play baseball, but his father believes baseball teams backed off because they knew Goose's heart was in football, and he already was committed to play football at Kansas State.

He wasn't as highly recruited in football as his more famous older brother, in part because he weighed only 200 pounds in high school. He played wide receiver (53 catches for 762 yards and 11 touchdowns), safety (eight interceptions), punter (35.8-yard average) and kicked extra points.

His first year at Kansas State, he was grayshirted. His second year, he was redshirted. In the 24 months off, he packed on about 30 pounds. That led to a move to fullback, which led to All-Big 12 honors.

Orlin Wagner/Associated Press

At the Senior Bowl, he was asked to play tight end. Jaguars coach Gus Bradley, who was in charge of the South team Goose played on, was impressed with his ability to identify his shortcomings and his willingness to work to improve them.

"He's a lot more athletic than you think," Bradley said. "As we got a chance to work with him during the week, that's what we realized. He would do whatever he could to help the team. And in the game, he made plays when his number was called."

At Kansas State, he never caught more than five passes in a season, but he caught three in the Senior Bowl. Rob calls his brother's hands his "hidden talent."

"I put my hands right there with Rob's," Goose said. "Obviously in college I didn't have many balls thrown to me, but I think I will show them at the next level. That's one of my big, big strengths, but it's a strength a lot of people don't know about."

Another hidden talent is his arm, which Dimel attributes to his baseball throwing. Dimel included several option throws for Goose in the Wildcats playbook, and Goose threw a touchdown pass last year.

There is a feeling among NFL scouts that Goose's best football may be ahead of him. Dimel sees the possibilities, too.

"He has such a high upside," he said. "I think there's a really good niche for him in the NFL because of his versatility as an H-back, blocking fullback and offset tight end. He can be used kind of like how New England used Scott Chandler to complement Rob, or how they used Aaron Hernandez."

Goose is expected to be selected in the mid to late rounds of the draft. NFL teams that value scrappiness may push up Goose on their boards. He earned his scrappiness the hard way.

"We were always fighting, always battling, throwing things at one another, always competing," Rob said.

Goose remembers getting some "good beatdowns" from Rob. It started early. When Goose was three, Rob checked him viciously in a game of mini sticks hockey. The result was a bloody mess and six stitches in his little chin.

"I gave him a huge check," Rob said, laughing. "It was a pretty good one."

Goose is nearly four years younger than Rob, so he was a target. He remembers being chased around the kitchen island by Rob more than a decade ago. Rather than continue the pursuit, Rob stopped, opened the silverware drawer and took out a fork. As Goose tried to escape, Rob fired the fork at him. The utensil stuck in his arm like a dart in cork.

Rob said Goose threw more objects at him than he threw at Goose. Among the projectiles were dice from a Monopoly game. Why? "We'd steal each other's money when the other guy wasn't looking," Rob said.

After being on the receiving end of Rob's abuse, Goose, as little brothers will, developed a bit of an attitude.

When he was about eight, Goose was given a giant bag of Skittles, which contained nearly enough pieces of the fruit-flavored candy to fill a football helmet. Rob wanted him to share. Nope. He pleaded for a handful, just a handful. Rob kept asking, begging. Goose shoved them in his mouth, faster, faster, faster, until nothing was left but the bag.

"An hour later, he was throwing up," Rob said. "To this day we laugh about it. It was classic."

Eventually, Goose found a better way to exact revenge on his big brother. In the midst of one fracas, Goose stuck his fists into the sides of Rob's neck.

"It hurt but tickled at the same time," Rob said. "It took all the strength out of me. It was laughing, but it was pain. It would take me to my knees, and he would get me to tap out."

The move became known as "The Treatment." As in, "Back off or you'll get The Treatment."

Said Goose, "It's my go-to move."

Goose doesn't use The Treatment much these days because the Gronkowski boys have, ahem, grown up. Goose considers his brothers his best friends. He and Rob talk and text daily or close to it. In Goose's contacts, Rob is listed as "Bro #4."

"When he was in college, we always stayed in contact," Rob said. "Now it feels like we're getting even closer because he's going into a stage where we are on the same page and we can relate to each other more."

They have trained together a few times in recent months, which has been beneficial for Goose. Rob, a three-time All-Pro whose party-boy rep belies his solid work ethic, has used the opportunities to dispense advice.

"Keep putting the work in," he tells him.

"Don't take off."

"It's all on you."

"It's about how good you want to be as a player and how you want to take your game to the next level."

"Stay hungry."

The Gronkowski family celebrates with Rob
The Gronkowski family celebrates with RobCourtesy of Glenn Gronkowski

There are benefits to being Rob's kid brother. Goose must be the only draft prospect who has attended a Super Bowl team's postgame party. After the Patriots beat the Seahawks in Super Bowl XLIX in Glendale, Arizona, Goose took in a performance by Flo Rida and congratulated Bill Belichick during the team's private celebration at a swank Scottsdale hotel. The week before at the AFC Championship Game, he met Patriots owner Robert Kraft.

There also are potential drawbacks to being Rob's kid brother.

The shadow that Gronk casts is an imposing one.

"I could see there could be some pressure, but I feel he handles it great," Rob said. "He's not looking for a free handout. He knows he has to put in the work. If you are doing everything you have to do, there shouldn't be much pressure."

Some little brothers of luminaries might retract from the light, feeling resentment or intimidation. Others, conversely, might be drawn to it, finding inspiration or a challenge.

Goose likes being Gronk's brother. He said he doesn't feel pressure to live up to his last name because he wasn't forced down this path. He chose to enter the arena in which his brother is a superstar.

"Everybody has to prove themselves, not just me," he said. "That's my goal, to show I can make my own plays and make a name for myself."

The name we already know. But no one is going to confuse Goose with Gronk.

Dan Pompei covers the NFL for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter at @danpompei.


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