Rob Gronkowski #87 of the New England Patriots speaks at a press conference after the Patriots defeat the Los Angeles Rams 13-3 during Super Bowl LIII at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on February 3, 2019 in Atlanta, Georgia.
Photo: Harry How/Getty Images
Photo: Harry How/Getty Images

Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski retires after nine seasons in the NFL

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It all started at 20 years old on stage at the NFL draft when my dream came true, and now here I am about to turn 30 in a few months with a decision I feel is the biggest of my life so far. I will be retiring from the game of football today. I am so grateful for the opportunity that Mr. Kraft and Coach Belichick gave to me when drafting my silliness in 2010. My life experiences over the last 9 years have been amazing both on and off the field. The people I have meet, the relationships I have built, the championships I have been apart of, I just want to thank the whole New England Patriots organization for every opportunity I have been giving and learning the great values of life that I can apply to mine. Thank you to all of Pats Nation around the world for the incredible support since I have been apart of this 1st class organization. Thank you for everyone accepting who I am and the dedication I have put into my work to be the best player I could be. But now its time to move forward and move forward with a big smile knowing that the New England Patriots Organization, Pats Nation, and all my fans will be truly a big part of my heart for rest of my life. It was truly an incredible honor to play for such a great established organization and able to come in to continue and contribute to keep building success. To all my current and past teammates, thank you for making each team every year special to be apart of. I will truly miss you guys. Cheers to all who have been part of this journey, cheers to the past for the incredible memories, and a HUGE cheers to the uncertain of whats next.

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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.

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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.

>> Related: Rob Gronkowski shaves his head for kids with cancer at Buzz Off event

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."

>> Related: Gronk announces he will play for the Patriots this season

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.

>> Related: Report: Patriots TE Rob Gronkowski to consider retirement again after playoffs

From here on out, Gronkowski will enjoy an eternal spot as one of the league's all-time greats, a three-time Super Bowl champion and an unforgettable cog in New England's championship machine.

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