Williamsville, N.Y. (NEXSTAR) – There’s no denying Rob Gronkowski has made a big name for himself in the football world. Now playing for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, ‘Gronk’ is inching closer to a fifth appearance in the Super Bowl.
But his success on the field can be traced back to his hometown in Western New York.
“I’ve never seen one like him, not even just coaching, even coaching against, you just don’t see that and I’m proud to say that I was part of it,” said Chuck Swierski, varsity basketball coach at Williamsville North High School.
Williamsville football coach Mike Mammoliti agreed.
“We needed a game to get in the playoffs and Rob scored all the points. He picked up a fumble, ran 48 yards. Tackled a quarterback for a safety and caught a touchdown and the coach after the game just shook his head. He said please tell me there aren’t any more.”
“When you see him as a 16, 17-year-old kid and you see just how much better he was than everybody else when they played against him in high school, I think ‘wow this kid’s going to be pretty good,’” said Swierski.
Coach Swierski wasn’t wrong. ‘Gronk’ ended up being drafted by the New England Patriots in 2010. During his time there, he helped the team to four championship games and won three of them.
“No doubt the best blocking, receiving, all-encompassing tight end,” said Mammoliti, “…and to have a chance to be a little part of that journey is pretty humbling.”
It’s still not an easy task for Buffalo Bills fans to cheer Gronk on during all those wins.
“You have a hometown kid, who grew up in Buffalo, that’s also playing for another team. I’m sure even if he did lose, he would be really happy that (the team from) the city he grew up in won,” said friend Andrew Nusall.
Nusall grew up knowing Rob and his four brothers. He says it’s exciting to know someone representing Western New York the way Gronkowski has.
“Whether it’s in the football world, the WWE world, all the good work that he’s done through his foundation, the charities that he’s donated to, I think it’s really cool. I think he’s made a tremendous impact on a lot of young kids lives as well. So it’s really special to see someone from Buffalo you know spread all that positive energy.”
And even with all the success, those who knew Gronkowski from the beginning of his career say not too much has changed.
“He’s the same person I met as an eighth grader,” said coach Mammoliti, “Just a little bigger.”