PHOENIX — Rob Gronkowski, the endearingly fun-loving and ceaselessly productive tight end who helped the New England Patriots to three Super Bowl titles and became one of the greatest players ever at his position, walked away from the sport Sunday, announcing his retirement at age 29.
“It all started at 20 years old on stage at the NFL draft when my dream came true, and now here I am about to turn 30 in a few months with a decision I feel is the biggest of my life so far,” Gronkowski wrote on Instagram. “I will be retiring from the game of football today.”
Gronkowski dealt with injuries throughout his career, and his decision was not a surprise. He had publicly considered retirement last offseason before returning, and he said following the Patriots’ Super Bowl triumph over the Los Angeles Rams in February that he again would contemplate his football future in the subsequent weeks.
The announcement came with Patriots officials, including team owner Robert Kraft and Coach Bill Belichick, gathered at a Phoenix resort for the annual league meeting.
“I am so grateful for the opportunity that Mr. Kraft and Coach Belichick gave to me when drafting my silliness in 2010,” Gronkowski wrote. “My life experiences over the last 9 years have been amazing both on and off the field. The people I have [met], the relationships I have built, the championships I have been a part of, I just want to thank the whole New England Patriots organization for every opportunity I have been [given]. … Thank you for everyone accepting who I am and the dedication I have put into my work to be the best player I could be.”
Gronkowski was a longtime favorite target of quarterback Tom Brady. He was a matchup nightmare for opposing defenses, and he was a ferocious blocker whose talent and success are almost certain to land him a spot in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
He finishes with 521 catches for 7,861 yards and 79 touchdowns over nine seasons, all with the Patriots, but his body betrayed him at times. He played all 16 regular season games only twice — in his first two seasons.
“But now [it’s] time to move forward and move forward with a big smile knowing that the New England Patriots Organization, Pats Nation, and all my fans will be truly a big part of my heart for rest of my life,” Gronkowski wrote. “It was truly an incredible honor to play for such a great established organization and able to come in to continue and contribute to keep building success. … Cheers to all who have been part of this journey, cheers to the past for the incredible memories, and a HUGE cheers to the uncertain of [what’s] next.”