He came out of retirement to help Tom Brady win another Super Bowl. And, as usual, tight end Rob Gronkowski played a huge role in completing the task.
On Sunday, Gronkowski caught two touchdown passes from Brady in the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ 31-9 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LV at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida.
Gronkowski caught six passes for 67 yards and won his fourth Super Bowl title. Brady has won seven Super Bowl championships.
“What a journey it’s been,” Gronkowski said during a videoconference with reporters. “What a story it’s been.”
Gronkowski, 31, and Brady, 43, were a nearly unstoppable tandem during their nine seasons together with the New England Patriots.
Two years ago, Gronkowski made a huge play to set up the game-deciding touchdown in the Patriots’ 13-3 victory over the Rams in Super Bowl LIII. But pain from injuries caused him to retire with a year left on his contract.
“I remember after that win I was so done,” he said. “Coming off the field, I was like, ‘I’m just glad it’s over,’ just the pain I was in too. It was great to be champ but it just felt great to be done.”
The five-year clock on Gronkowski’s eligibility for election to the Pro Football Hall of Fame was running when Brady signed with the Buccaneers last March.
“He hit me up and he’s like, ‘Would you come down?'” Gronkowski said. “And I was like, ‘I’ve been waiting for you. I’ve been waiting for you to make a move.'”
In April, the Patriots traded Gronkowski to the Buccaneers for a fourth-round draft pick.
Gronkowski caught 45 passes for 623 yards and seven touchdowns during the season. He had only two receptions in playoff victories over Washington, New Orleans and Green Bay, but he broke out against the Chiefs.
“It’s great to see big-time players making big-time plays. Just love what they added to the team,” Brady said of Gronkowski and receiver Antonio Brown.
Trailing 3-0 in the first quarter, Brady found Gronkowski for an eight-yard touchdown pass that gave the Buccaneers a lead they never surrendered.
In the second quarter, Gronkowski increased the lead to 14-3 when he caught a 17-yard touchdown pass, giving him five Super Bowl touchdown catches.
“You never know with this offense who’s going to get the ball, who’s going to make the plays because we have so much talent,” said Gronkowski, who also had a 25-yard reception. “It just happened to be me this time.”
Brady and Gronkowski have teamed up for 14 postseason touchdowns, the most in NFL history.
“Just to come here and just have a situation like this with so many great players and be Super Bowl 55 champs, it’s just unreal,” he said. “It’s surreal, man.”
Story by Gary Klein, Los Angeles Times.