On March 24, New England Patriots superstar Rob Gronkowski, who turns 30 in May, announced his retirement from the National Football League.
Gronkowski’s career, although short, was filled with accomplishments. In his nine years in the league, he was a three-time Super Bowl champion and appeared in five Pro Bowls. He also set playoff records for tight ends in receptions, yards and touchdowns.
Gronkowski was an absolute beast on the field. Throughout his career, he was widely regarded as one of the most physically imposing players in the league. Most of his highlight reels include him barreling down the field and ragdolling anyone in his path. However, that ultimately takes a toll on a player at the end of the day.
Gronkowski expressed his gratitude for the New England faithful, and the NFL as a whole, in his retirement post on his Instagram page.
“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,” Gronkowski said. “But now it’s 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.”
The decision ultimately loomed large for Gronkowski. As a 29-year-old, it is easy to want to continue his career. It is an especially enticing option when playing for a franchise with as much success as the New England Patriots. Gronkowski would have undoubtedly had another shot at the Super Bowl this year and potentially next, but he instead decided to hang up the cleats for good in sake of his health.
In the end, Gronkowski made the correct choice.
He certainly has not been known to be the humblest or forgiving player on the field. There have been plenty of videos of him doing questionable things, partying too much, or doing a variety of other actions. He was one of the NFL’s leading bruisers, and he knew it.
Despite coming across like that personality, however, he made one of the best decisions that an athlete has made in a long time. Giving up the money, the fame, and the passion for the game is certainly trying on a person’s will and likely was for Gronkowski. He decided to put himself and his family first rather than that instinct to stay and keep playing.
When players, no matter the sport, look for guidance in future decisions of this nature, Gronkowski will be the prototype. Especially in the NFL and the NHL, where concussions are highly prevalent and problematic, it is important for players to realize the life that comes after the sport. If a player is lucky, he can play until into his or her mid-30s or later. Most players phase out 10 or so years before that.
Regardless of where and when a player decides to end his career, he or she has to know when the right time is. Moving ahead after injuries is never easy, especially head or back injuries, and it will never feel like a good time to give up a sport which you have played for your entire life.
In the upcoming years, as concussion lawsuits take bigger heed on the sports world, Gronkowski will be at the forefront as an example for decisions such as these. No matter what, though, he can rest for his retirement days knowing that he made the right call.
Kevin Kopf can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @KMKTNF.