New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski, the best Arizona Wildcats alum to play in the NFL, announced his retirement from the NFL on Sunday at 29.
Arizona fans will always be filled with “what-if” questions about Gronk, who was really, really good in his first two seasons at Arizona — he caught 16 touchdown passes in 22 games — including 47 catches for 672 yards and 10 scores in 10 games as a sophomore.
A back injury then forced him to sit out all of his junior season, just when the Wildcats were unveiling Nick Foles, who would go on to become the best-ever Arizona quarterback in the NFL. Arizona ended up 6-3 in the Pac-10 that season, including a home overtime loss to Oregon.
If the Wildcats had won that game, they would have tied the Ducks for the conference title while holding the head-to-head tiebreaker,which means they would have gone to the Rose Bowl. Would Gronk have made a difference in that game, that season? Well, we’ll never quite know for sure.
Gronk did go on to win three Super Bowls with the Patriots and made a case as the best tight end in NFL history. His injury-filled nine NFL seasons prevented him from putting up the career totals of other greats at the position, but his peak production as a pass-catcher — plus his excellent in-line blocking skills — means you’re not wrong if you think he’s the No. 1 tight end.
Anyway, he didn’t stick around college after his back surgery, electing to turn pro after his junior season. Here is part of what he said that day: