Gronkowski opening eyes at fullback

By Joel Jellison

Rob Gronkowski might have made Internet headlines with his activities in Manhattan this weekend, but it was his younger brother who was one of the stories of Kansas State’s spring game.

Glenn, whose brother Rob plays tight end for the New England Patriots, looked capable of giving the Wildcats a new type of threat out of the backfield at fullback this past Saturday.

While K-State is looking to replace bruising Braden Wilson, who was drafted in the sixth round of last week’s NFL Draft by the Kansas City Chiefs, Gronkowski brings another athletic frame at 6-foot-3, 243 pounds.

On Saturday, the redshirt-freshman rushed for 19 yards on four carries and caught another two passes for 16 yards and a touchdown playing for the Purple team.

“He took a couple good hits, gave a couple good hits as well,” K-State coach Bill Snyder said. “I thought Gronk did fine.”

Gronkowski’s Saturday featured a pair of eye-catching plays. First, he converted a third-and-1 with a strong run up the middle. Then, he caught an 8-yard shovel pass from Jake Waters and slammed the tackler out of the way to score a touchdown.

Gronkowski said after the game he was surprised with how the touchdown transpired.

“I don’t know how he didn’t drill me, to be honest,” he said. “I didn’t even know he was coming. I really don’t know how that happened. I think I just got lucky there.”

Gronkowski had a number of his family members in town for the game, including the NFL trio of Rob, Dan and Chris. Glenn said he could hear from anywhere in the stadium when they were yelling for him, including when they were mistakenly yelling at the White squad’s punter Ethan Hammes, who wore the same number.

He said it was nice to have his family in Manhattan for the game, as they don’t get to come watch him play too often.

“They never really get to get out here,” Gronkowski said. “They have games themselves. So it’s definitely huge to finally get to see them out here. I think that is their second time out here in two years. It’s a good time.”

When Gronkowski scored his touchdown, he quickly celebrated with teammates and made his way off the field. When his brother Rob scores in the NFL, he celebrates with a signature spike of the ball referred to as a “Gronk spike.”

Rob told reporters after the game that because Glenn didn’t spike it, he would get some “treatment” later that night.

Glenn described the odd family tradition.

“It’s just a little thing where you push your hands as hard as you can against your neck,” the younger Gronk said. “It makes you laugh at the same time that it hurts, so you can’t control yourself. When I was young, that is how I used to beat Rob up, because that’s the only way that I could. That’s what we do now.”

Past his family and the performance from Saturday, Gronkowski said he is still just trying to soak up everything he learns along the way. It hasn’t been easy for the New York native.

“I think it’s more mental for me, just knowing the plays and stuff,” he said. “It’s a really complex offense, especially for the fullbacks and tight ends. That is the biggest part.”

Gronkowski hopes to factor into the position next season, but said he’s still trying to get better everyday, just like the rest of his teammates. He noted that the fullback competition has a ton of competition at this point, and it won’t be easy for any one guy to take the spot.

No matter who wins the position, they will have big shoes to fill in Wilson’s, who had the combination of size and speed that made him versatile enough to be used in many ways.

Gronkowski credits Wilson as being a mentor for him and someone he can always look toward in the future.

“Braden was a beast — I think you guys all know that,” he said. “He was definitely a good leader, too. We were good friends off the field and on the field, talking about football and how we can be better. I think that was a huge influence for me.”

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