Rob Gronkowski brings smiles, instruction to local youth
By JENNIFER GENTILE
MELROSE — It certainly seems that for New England Patriot hero Rob Gronkowski when he’s smiling the whole world is smiling too.
Number 87 brought the party bus to Melrose High School and welcomed thousands who lined the fields and the perimeters of Fred Green Football Field on Saturday and Sunday May 30-31 to get a glimpse of the lovable tight end of the Superbowl XLIX-winning New England Patriots. And while there was plenty of time for dancing, it was serious business teaching over 500 youths who signed up for the sold out Citi Rob Gronkowski Football Camp by Pro Camps. The tight end spent most of the two-day camp busy in instruction, visiting each drill station so every camper could get a handshake, high five and receive a pass from their All-Pro hero. Also on hand were members of the Gronkowski clan, including his brothers, who arrived with him in the infamous party bus.
What Gronk event would be complete without dancing? As kids busted out in breakdancing to impress the master of moves, Gronk showed his own fun side, wearing lens-free, turquoise plastic glasses and breaking into a impromptu slip-and-slide across the damp grass of Morrelli Baseball Field, a moment captured by photographer Donna Larsson.
Embracing the spirit of fun, Gronk spoke of the pure joy of seeing kids engaged in their favorite sport. “I grew up in Buffalo, so I was always a Buffalo Bills fan, so I always tried going to Bills players’ camps and the University of Buffalo was right there, so I always went to their camp, had a blast, all my brothers went with me,” Gronkowski said. “It was always cool going to camps. I still remember them to this day. So we’re having a blast, we’re getting dirty out here, we’re doing fumble drills, passing drills, blocking drills, so it’s awesome.” And the energy was infectious on the field. “There’s a lot of them dancing. These kids are having a blast and it’s great to see them having a blast. They’re not moping around, they have energy. It makes the atmosphere so much better.”
For the 6’6″ 265 lb. athlete, it’s been a heck of a better off-season than last year, when questions lingered whether Gronkowski would be in top shape for the 2014 season after rehabbing an ACL injury. “I’m not rehabbing for once,” he said. “It’s an amazing feeling and it’s amazing going through the process, working out, running every day with the team, coming out like this with the kids and not having to worry about anything. Way more fun.”
What a difference a year makes. After helping to lead the Patriots to their fourth Super Bowl title since 2002, the wildly popular tight end has embarked on an offseason to remember, proving to Patriot Nation that perhaps it’s Gronk’s world and we’re just living in it. No doubt when the bus stopped at Melrose High School his enthusiasm and direction was something the many campers will remember for years to come. And that the feeling was mutual.
“It’s an amazing feeling to come out here with my family and my friends and see the kids’ joy in their faces and their families too,” says Gronkowski. “Their parents are out here, they’ve all got smiles, they’re saying the kids are having the best day they’ve ever had, so definitely I feel it in my heart.”