The Avengers: Rob Gronkowski joined Tom Brady to regain Super (Bowl) powers

Tim Walters
Palm Beach Post

When it comes to the Avengers, Tony Stark has a Hulk.

When it comes to the NFL, Tom Brady has a Gronk.

A band of superheroes always needs a physical freak that seems unstoppable to opposing forces.

For the past decade, tight end Rob Gronkowski has filled that role.

Sure, during the past few years Gronk has become a bit tamer, but if you watch the Avengers movies, even the Hulk became a bit more domesticated as the movies progressed.

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But as the saying goes, don't make him angry. You wouldn't like him when he's angry.

Gronkowski is listed at 6-foot-6 and 265 pounds.

By comparison, Lou Ferrigno, who before CGI played the Incredible Hulk in the 1970s and 80s, was 6-foot-5 and weighed anywhere between 275 and 325 pounds.

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And like the Hulk, Gronk intimidated opponents and for a time ran over anyone who got in his way.

Gronkowski has four seasons with more than 1,000 yards in receptions, and if it weren’t for injuries, he likely would have had many more.

During his second season in the NFL, Gronkowski amassed a record for tight ends — 1,327 yards and a league-leading 17 touchdown receptions. The yardage record has since been eclipsed by Travis Kelce and George Kittle. Gronk still holds the single-season tight end touchdown record.

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The Gronkowski family back story

Gronkowski was born in Amherst, New York, which is near Niagara Falls.

His father, Gordon Gronkowski, played offensive guard for Syracuse University from 1977-81.

He is a great-grandson of Ignatius Gronkowski, who represented the United States in cycling at the 1924 Summer Olympics in Paris, France, and held five world records in the sport.

He is one of five brothers, who all played collegiate sports.

NFL player Rob Gronkowski, of the New England Patriots, from second left, accepts the best comeback athlete award with his brothers, NFL free agent Chris Gronkowski and former NFL player Dan Gronkowski at the ESPY Awards at the Microsoft Theater on Wednesday, July 15, 2015, in Los Angeles. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)

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Gronkowski signed to play college football at the University of Arizona, which, for an upstate New Yorker, may as well be a move to Asgaard.

Despite solid freshmen and sophomore seasons at Arizona, Gronkowski wasn’t highly sought after during the 2010 NFL Draft. He missed his junior year due to a back injury but still entered the draft. It turned out to be a great move.

Bill Belichick and the Patriots selected him in the second round with the 42nd overall pick. It couldn’t have worked out any better. It was as if Nick Fury had tabbed him to join the Avengers and his bond with Iron Man (in this case, Tom Brady) was formed.

Dec 27, 2015; East Rutherford, NJ, USA;  New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick talks to tight end Rob Gronkowski (87) and quarterback Tom Brady (12) during timeout at MetLife Stadium. New York Jets defeat the New England Patriots 26-20 in OT. Mandatory Credit: Jim O'Connor-USA TODAY Sports

Gronkowski's stats, accomplishments in the NFL

During his first three seasons, Gronkowski accrued 2,663 yards and 38 touchdowns.

He earned a reputation of being an unstoppable physical freak. Defensive backs bounced off him like evil beings from another dimension.

His fourth season was slowed by injuries and he only played seven games, still collecting 592 yards and four touchdowns.

He went for more than 1,000 yards in each of his next two seasons (1,124 and 1,176), with 23 total touchdowns (12 and 11).

He was limited to eight games in 2016 because of injuries but bounced back in 2017 to have 1,084 yards and eight touchdowns.

Despite playing 13 games in 2018, he just wasn’t as productive as he had been. Big hits and injuries had taken their toll on him and he had just 682 yards and three touchdowns.

He decided after 2018 it was time to retire at just 29 years old.

Rob Gronkowski interferes in the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal at WrestleMania 33 in 2017. He jumped the barricade after Jinder Mahal threw a drink on him at ringside. Gronkowski delivered a shoulder block to Mahal.

Wanna wrestle? Yeah, Gronk did that

After retirement, Gronkowski decided to go the way of another Hulk — Hulk Hogan — by becoming a professional wrestler.

Gronkowski was no stranger to professional wrestling. In 2017 while sitting ringside at Wrestlemania 33, he got involved when heel Jinder Mahal threw a beverage on him. He quickly sprang over the barricade and delivered a big shoulder block to Mahal, helping friend Mojo Rawley win the match.

In his latest go-around, Gronkowski hosted WrestleMania 36 in April 2020 at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown.

He brought an amazing enthusiasm and energy given he was trying to pump up an empty stadium. 

On the second day of the two-day wrestling event, Gronkowski won the WWE 24/7 Championship.

He eventually lost it to R-Truth on June 1, 2020. Later that year, he won a Slammy Award as Celebrity of the Year in WWE.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers tight end Rob Gronkowski celebrates with quarterback Tom Brady, left, after Gronkowski scored a touchdown against the Las Vegas Raiders during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 25, 2020, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/David Becker)

Back to football with the Tampa Bay Bucs

During the 2020 offseason, a major development occurred that brought Gronkowski out of retirement — Tom Brady signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

It was as if Tony Stark had come calling on Bruce Banner to help save the world one more time.

Together, Iron Man and Hulk — er, Brady and Gronkowski — helped the Buccaneers end a 12-year playoff drought, returning the team to the Super Bowl for only the second time.

Iron Man (voiced by Adrian Pasdar) and the Hulk (Fred Tatasciore) pair up to defeat the energy creature Zzzax in "Iron Man and Hulk: Heroes United."

In 2020, Gronkowski played in all 16 games, harnessing 45 catches for 623 yards and seven touchdowns. He was often used as a blocker for Brady — a good fit considering he’s the size of most of the players trying to maul his mild-mannered quarterback.

Now, he and Brady will make their sixth Super Bowl appearance together. It’s a sequel most never thought they’d see.

In their previous five Super Bowls together — all with the Patriots — they are 3-2.

Gronkowski has hinted that he’d like to come back next year, hoping for yet another adventure with his immortal teammate.

They say Father Time is undefeated. It may be true, but this dynamic duo is proving when they combine their powers, they’re nearly as unstoppable.

Walters is the USA Today NETWORK-FLORIDA Deputy Sports Editor. Contact him at