ORLANDO, Fla. — He paces the hallway just after 6:45 a.m., carefully studying the day’s script. But when it’s time for Rob Gronkowski to perform, it’s not about hitting roads or catching passes from Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady, but about acting in a TV commercial for the USAA.
Set in a makeshift dog park at Universal Studios theme park, Gronkowski delivers his lines with his beloved French bulldog, Ralphie, in his lap as one of the crew quietly whispers, “He’s sweating a little on his forehead.
That’s when reinforcements – two make-up artists – arrive, while Ralphie grabs some shade and a quick drink.
One makeup artist powders Gronkowski’s face, while the other gives him a new gray shirt to change into. As Ralphie is taken for water and a quick break in the shade, Gronkowski and director Kreg Lauterbach debate whether to say “dog” or “doggie.”
“It’s a lot more chic in this industry,” said Gronkowski, who turned 33 in May. “It’s just grind, grind, grind, in football, and here it’s like you’re like a model or something.
“I don’t need to be in good shape at all. I have people who feed me, and if I’m slow, I’m slow. It doesn’t matter if I’m fast or not. So that’s wonderful.
After announcing his retirement and doubling two weeks ago after 11 seasons in the NFL – nine with the New England Patriots and two with the Buccaneers – Gronkowski now has new plans in sight, leaving behind a guaranteed legacy for land him in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Establishing his identity away from football – even amid criticism he was too free-spirited and too party-loving at first – helped Gronkowski cultivate projects in television and entertainment. He has appeared on TV shows such as “Entourage” and “Family Guy”; throw mega parties, like “Gronk Beach” at Super Bowl LIV in Miami; and does commercials for USAA, Tide, Lyft, Cheerios, Nike, Dunkin’ Donuts, T-Mobile, Body Armor and JetBlue. His personality promises many other opportunities.
“Gronk knows his brand,” said Maxinne Gonzalez, USAA’s director of video production. “I think Gronk knows the character. He knows himself very well and delivers it. And I think people resonate with that.
According to Gronkowski, he receives a handful of inquiries every two months from companies interested in him representing their brands.
“He’s really good at what he does,” Lauterbach said. “He brings a level of energy, that even in the hot sun we work with babies and dogs, and there are challenges in those. It keeps spirits high on it.
As he continues his work in commercials, Gronkowski will also appear in the movie “80s for Brady,” reuniting with quarterback and former Patriots teammates Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola. He also plans to host the USA Today High School Sports Awards at the end of the month.
He takes a more active role in his brother Chris Gronkowski’s Ice Shaker company and wants to join his father’s G&G Fitness Equipment company.
“I’m not really retired,” Gronkowski said. “It’s just a game of football. … This is not life. … When people start to retire, they start to die.
But is Gronkowski really done with football after agent Drew Rosenhaus told ESPN’s Adam Schefter he could see the tight end coming back and Gronk’s girlfriend Camille Kostek did echo the same sentiments, according to reports, this week?
What if the Bucs made a championship run? What if Brady came to call?
Gronkowski answered those questions Tuesday morning.
Of course, I will answer [the call]. It’s the greatest of all time calling me. We have a great relationship, on and off the pitch,” Gronkowski said. “We are friends. … But I wouldn’t go back to football. I’m ready. I love what I do and I love trying to find what I really, really want to do next.
So why retire now, with Brady committing at least another year?
“It was my decision to quit. It was definitely time. It was just right,” said Gronkowski, whose career ends with four Super Bowl rings — three with the Patriots and one with the Buccaneers.
He leaves in good health and on his own terms. It’s no mean feat for a man who broke down in tears as he recalled the night of the Patriots’ Super Bowl victory in 2019 – when he couldn’t get out of bed due to an injury. to the quadriceps (he would have a liter of blood removed from the muscle) – or who was forced to miss five regular season games last year due to cracked ribs and a punctured lung.
Gronkowski, who suffered nine surgeries and a handful of documented concussions with “who knows how many minor concussions,” retired in 2020 to team up with Brady in Tampa despite injury risks.
“I feel good. I feel really good. And it feels good to feel good,” said Gronkowski who previously suffered a torn ACL, torn MCL and concussion in the same game.
“Every time I stepped out onto the football pitch, I literally left everything I had. Whether it was training or a game, and if I wasn’t feeling my best playing or in practice, I still gave it my all every time So it’s not like I’m looking back, you know, wishing, ‘Man, I should have done that. I should have done that. I mean, there are things that you would obviously change. I mean, but it’s learned. It’s how we learn in life. You change it for the next time.
“But I definitely feel accomplished. … I feel accomplished in my career and, in fact, it has gone much better than I ever imagined.
He recognized a reality that many professional athletes rarely talk about: retirement can be scary. You go from planning every aspect of your life — every meeting, every practice, every appointment — to an open schedule with a blank canvas. You also go from doing something at the highest level and gaining worldwide recognition to wondering what’s next.
“If you’ve been doing sports since you were 2, that’s all you know, you know,” Gronkowski said. “It took you full circle through college and got you into [the] pros to make a decent living, then fire you from there — and then you really don’t know what to do… because athletics got you this far. You rely on this to make all of your connections in life.
“It can certainly be a scary road. I mean, I’m not really afraid of that — I’m ready. I feel like there are a lot of business opportunities. I know I want to enter the business world.
Gronkowski said staying active and involved in many projects during the offseason has given him a taste of life in retirement, and he thanks his brothers — all former athletes — for their guidance in the transition. to the business world. He earned over $70 million from the NFL but barely touched it, relying instead on his endorsements.
“They took their work ethic from the football field and brought it to the next chapter of life, and that’s something you have to do,” Gronkowski said. “You can’t be laid back if you want to succeed in the next chapter of your life. You have to be all-in and you have to grind.