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Former Patriot Rob Gronkowski dishes on life after the NFL during Homecoming event

Rob Gronkowski speaks into a microphone while Brandon Korn sits and smiles besides him. Gronkowski visited Northeastern Nov. 8 as part of CUP’s 2023 Homecoming events. Photo courtesy Olivia Watson, CUP.

Hundreds of students waited in line outside Blackman Auditorium Nov. 8 to see Rob Gronkowski in one of the multiple Council for University Programs, or CUP, 2023 Homecoming events. 

“A Conversation with Rob Gronkowski,” moderated by fourth-year business administration and mathematics combined major and CUP’s Vice President of Finance and Operations Brandon Korn, covered everything from Gronkowski’s, or Gronk’s, favorite football play to where he gets his underwear. 

“My mom gives me socks for my birthday and Christmas every year,” Gronkowski said. “Same thing with my underwear: It’s always from my mom. My mom knows; I don’t even have to make requests anymore.”

Gronkowski, who spent nine seasons as a tight end for the New England Patriots, spoke about his unwavering love for the city. 

“If I’m somewhere else and I’m feeling down, I just come to Boston,” he said. “New England is the city of champions — it’s the number one sports city in the whole world.”

Despite landing in Boston at 1 a.m. Wednesday morning, Gronkowski was in high spirits for those who came out to see him. The crowd was amused when the tight end began heckling Korn in response to his pre-written script. 

“You have a cheat sheet in front of you, so you didn’t prepare that well,” Gronkowski said, as Korn rambled off a series of questions. “Don’t worry, I just wanted to talk smack. You’re actually doing an unbelievable job, my man.”

Gronkowski answers Korn’s questions in front of the audience. Hundreds of students waited in line to get into the event. Photo courtesy Olivia Watson, CUP.

Korn jumped between topics, at one point shooting rapid-fire questions at Gronkowski regarding his controversial two-year stint with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. While playing a Florida vs. New England game, Gronkowski did say he prefers the Florida beaches to the New England mountains; however, he will never forget the first eight years of his NFL career.    

“Boston will always be a home,” Gronkowski said, who continues to maintain a residence in Foxborough, where the Patriots’ home field of Gillette Stadium is located. “I’m a Patriot for life, no doubt about that.”

Fans across Massachusetts still consider the former tight end part of the community. Rohan Jayaraman, a first-year mechanical engineering and design combined major, grew up next to Gillette Stadium. His friend, Gavi Escamilla-Salomon, a first-year mathematics and psychology combined major from Cambridge, credits Gronkowski for a large portion of the Patriots’ dynasty.

“Me and my friends used to trick-or-treat at Gronk’s house,” Jayaraman said. “Gronk is a household name, so it’s kinda crazy that he’s here.”

Fans had many questions, but, most importantly, wanted to know if the former Patriots quarterback Tom Brady was a deciding factor in Gronk’s return to football. Gronkowski said he told Brady to keep him in mind when the NFL legend was thinking of leaving the Patriots’ organization. Five weeks after Brady signed with the Buccaneers, Gronkowski was traded to Tampa, and “the rest is history.”

Their friendship, viewed by many as one of the NFL’s most iconic duos, took years to cultivate. Gronkowski told the audience that the two stayed after practice every day for the first two years of his NFL career, and joked that it took five years until he was able to tell Brady he didn’t think they needed the extra practice anymore. Although the two are no longer teammates, Brady continues to inspire Gronkowski off the field. 

“He’s a great family man, he’s always there for his kids,” he said. “Young guys seeing the greatest player of all time just doing the right things in life is what it’s all about.”

Gronkowski prepares to throw a football. He advised students to “live it up” and “have a good time” while they’re in college. Photo courtesy Olivia Watson, CUP.

And “doing the right thing” is something Gronkowski strives to live up to in his daily life. During the conversation, fourth-year bioengineering major Rahul Mamtora hollered a request for Gronkowski to pay his college tuition. Stunned by the steep cost of Northeastern tuition, Gronkowski reached into his own pocket. 

“Whatever’s in my wallet, you get,” Gronk said, who first joked that he only had a single dollar bill on him. After opening his wallet once more, he announced, “We got a couple hundreds, baby.”

Mamtora, who ran down to meet Gronkowski on stage, returned to the crowd with $800 in bills, half of which he immediately gave away, shocking the crowd and Gronkowski himself. 

I think he gave me like $800, $700. I didn’t even look at it, I was just handing it out to people,” Mamtora said. “I kept, like, $400. I had no clue it was that much, but that’s crazy.”

Gronkowski didn’t only give away money to Northeastern students — he also gave some life advice. 

I would say to live it up, you know, have a good time, establish your identity throughout college, understand how to be social and communicate very well. Communication is huge in life,” he said. And let your feelings out — what you think, what they think, and you can figure out a problem from there.”

What’s next for Gronk? Well, he skydived into his contributing role on the NFL Kickoff during the Veteran’s Day game. He may hold the record for most touchdowns in a season as a tight end for the Patriots and for the NFL, but Gronk is still crossing items off his bucket list.

About the Contributor
Annah Chaya
Annah Chaya, Managing Editor
Annah Chaya is a third-year journalism and criminal justice combined major with minors in English and sports, media, and communication. She currently is serving as one of the managing editors of The News and has previously served as the sports editor. She's excited to serve as managing editor for a third time. Follow her on X @annahchaya for updates.
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