Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski announced on Instagram that he is retiring from football following the team's Super Bowl LIII win, ending his historic nine-year NFL career.
Gronkowski was selected in the second round of the 2010 NFL Draft by the Patriots, the team he spent his entire professional career with, following his collegiate career at Arizona.
He quickly became a favorite target of Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, hauling in 10 touchdowns on 42 receptions throughout his rookie campaign.
He followed that up with a historic season, starting all 16 of the team's games in 2011 while compiling 17 touchdowns on 90 receptions for 1,327 yards. His season total for receiving yards stood tall in the record books until the 2018 season, where two tight ends surpassed the mark.
Gronkowski battled injuries for multiple seasons throughout his career, but still managed to put together double-digit touchdown totals in five of his nine seasons in the league, the most by a tight end in NFL history.
He also set the team record for overall touchdowns in his career, surpassing Stanley Morgan in both overall touchdowns and receiving touchdowns.
The tight end won three Super Bowls in his career, helping the Patriots take down the Seahawks in Super Bowl XLIX. He was also a part of the Super Bowl LI roster that put together an incredible comeback to win against the Atlanta Falcons, but did not play due to injury.
Patriots owner Robert Kraft released a statement on the Patriots tight end's retirement, saying Gronkowski "always has a youthful exuberance about him and is a joy to be around."
Patriots head coach Bill Belichick added that "his elite combination of size, skill, intelligence, toughness and aiblity to perform in pressure situations set him apart."
The thing most Patriots fans will remember about Gronkowski, though, will be his personality. An ever-charismatic enigma, Gronkowski was a memorable quote machine, winning the hearts of fans around the country with his persona off the field.
Whether it was a Dunkin' commercial with David Ortiz, appearances in movies, memorable moments during championship parades or his hilarious thoughts in press conferences and interviews, Gronkowski gained quite the reputation around New England with all of his antics off the field.
Gronkowski also had an impact on the community when he wasn't dominating on the football field, winning the Ron Burton Community Service Award in 2016, named after the first player drafted by the team. Burton was known as a community leader, and the team said his "widespread charitable work was a model for how a Patriots player can make an impact off the field."
He also participated in many community events throughout his time in New England, and frequently "buzzed off" his hair for kids with cancer at events during his summers.
Gronkowski faced a lot of questions later in his career as injuries piled up, with retirement rumors swirling following the 2017 season.
However, Gronkowski decided to return to the field for the 2018 season, with his performance not meeting what many Patriots fans were used to throughout his career. His targets went down, he didn't find the end zone as much and things had changed.
Following the season, Gronkowski decided he had done enough, wrapping up his career in a Patriots uniform with the final decision to hang up the cleats.
With a faulty back and a body that's gone under the knife countless times over the last 15 years, Gronkowski is now forced to close the book on a Hall of Fame-worthy career.
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