First of all, thanks to Kayce for bringing this to my attention. That’s the kind of goal-oriented, greater good, it’s-not-about-the-individual, ego-free, spirit of cooperation that made Barstool great. There is no “I” in team. But there is one in “pageviews.” So I appreciate you.
As time passes and we get further removed from Rob Gronkowski’s retirement (and closer to the day in the middle of the 2019 when he announces he’s coming back because I’m still firmly in the middle of Kubler-Ross “Denial” stage), more and more never-before-heard details of his life and times with the Patriots are coming out.
Including his Patriots superhero-like origin story. There are few things I love in this world like I love finding out any tiny detail of how Bill Belichick operates behind the scenes while he’s in the process of team building. And we have one I’ve never heard, courtesy of Ryen Russilo on Bill Simmons’ podcast.
Apparently Russilo talked to Gronk’s college coach at Arizona Mike Stoops, who described a phone call he got from Belichick before the 2010 draft as he tried to get a handle on this freakishly athletic, chronically-injured and possibly insane party boy:
Russilo, paraphrasing Stoops:
“[Belichick]’s like, ‘Alright, what’s the deal with this Gronk guy? This guy an asshole or what?’
“[Stoops] is like, ‘No! He’s a big teddy bear. He’s unbelievable. You’re gonna love him. You’re gonna love having him around. All he cares about it is winning. He’s absolutely everything you’d want in a guy.’
“[Belichick] is like, ‘Alright cool.’ That Because he’s trying to figure out, is this one of those guys that’s too much extra? Is he distracting? And all those things. But [Stoops] was like, ‘No, he’s awesome.’”
And the rest is history. It can’t have been easy for Belichick to take that particular leap of faith, since you can’t possibly find two more diametrically opposed personality types. And he can’t have felt too great about the decision when the first thing Gronk did as a Patriot was this:
But we’re all obviously glad he listened to Stoops. That decision did nothing less than lay a foundation for the Bradichick Dynasty Version 2.0. I just wish he hadn’t listened to Urban Meyer when he said similar things about that other tight end, but that’s a discussion for … well, for never ever. Today is a day for appreciating that Belichick was talked into taking a guy who turned out to be the least assholey great athlete you’ll see in your lifetime, with just the exact right amount of extra.