While his older brother was making headlines during his visit to Manhattan over the weekend, Glenn Gronkowski was showing Kansas State fans what he may be capable of next season.
The redshirt freshman fullback was one of the Wildcats’ top young performers at the spring game on Saturday.
Gronkowski, who served as the first-string fullback for the Purple Team, rushed for 19 yards on four carries and caught two passes for 16 yards and a touchdown. He showed both promise and toughness while making two highlight plays.
The first came on a third-and-one, when he took a handoff up the middle and muscled his way through a pile of tacklers for a first down.
The second was an eight-yard catch and run for a touchdown. On the play, he caught a pass from Jake Waters just short of the end zone and absorbed a hard hit near the goal line. The would-be tackler fell back, but Gronkowski stayed vertical and sauntered in for a touchdown.
“I don’t know how he didn’t drill me, to be honest,” Gronkowski said afterward. “I didn’t even know he was coming. I really don’t know how that happened. I think I just got lucky there.”
Overall, he attributed the successful game to what he learned during his redshirt season.
“I think it’s more mental for me, just knowing the plays and stuff,” Gronkowski said. “It is a really complex offense, especially for the fullbacks and tight ends, that is the biggest part.”
Gronkowski received a warm welcome from his family — aka Gronk Nation — on the way off the field. His three brothers, Dan, Chris and Rob (who all play in the NFL) gathered around him and co-offensive coordinator Dana Dimel for pictures when the game was over. Rob, a tight end for the New England Patriots and the most famous member of the family, offered some friendly ribbing and told assembled media he enjoyed his trip to Manhattan. He also described Dimel, who coached Rob at Arizona, as “the man who taught me everything I know.”
When the exchange was over, Gronkowski said it meant a lot to have his older brothers in attendance.
“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.”
Even if they promised to give him “the treatment” later that night.
“It’s just a little thing where you push your hands as hard as you can against your neck,” Gronkowski explained. “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 is the only way that I could. That’s what we do now.”
Gronkowski hopes that tenacity translates into major playing time next season. With the departure of Braden Wilson, who was picked by the Kansas City Chiefs in the sixth round of the NFL Draft, fullback is one of the most wide open positions on K-State’s roster.
Based on what he accomplished during the spring game, Gronkowski seems to be in the lead.
“I hope so,” Gronkowski said. “I’m just trying to get better like everyone else out here. There is a lot of competition still. You never know what is going to happen. Hopefully I can stay healthy.”
Gronkowski could be a good fit at fullback. He is a natural athlete that played receiver and safety in high school. But he also has the size (6-foot-3, 234 pounds) necessary to block and fight for tough yards. Like Wilson, he can be used in various ways.
“Braden was, he was a beast. I think you guys all know that,” Gronkowski 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.”