By Nick Shook
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Rob Gronkowski is an excellent football player, and he had another stellar outing on Sunday.
We can talk about his spectacular, one-handed catch over Micah Hyde for a touchdown. We can talk about the dynamic element he brings to New England’s offense. We can even talk about how opponents refuse to learn from past mistakes and continue to press him in single coverage inside the red zone.
But perhaps the most interesting point to come out of Sunday’s romp over the Buffalo Bills is that Gronkowski takes games against them personally.
There’s a little history here. Gronkowski was born in Amherst, New York, and raised in Williamsville, just 17 miles north of Ralph Wilson Stadium. He played his first three years of high school football at Williamsville North High School before moving to western Pennsylvania and enrolling at Woodland Hills High School. He journeyed across the U.S. to attend and play college football at Arizona, but never forgot his roots — especially when the 2010 NFL Draft arrived.
Buffalo had the opportunity to select Gronkowski twice, but decided to go elsewhere both times.
“When your hometown team passes on you twice in the draft, you kind of remember it still,” Gronkowski said after Sunday’s win, via ESPN. “No lie, I remember it every single time I play them.”
The Bills instead opted to take Clemson running back C.J. Spiller and UCF defensive tackle Torell Troup with their first two picks in that draft. Spiller, currently a free agent, made a Pro Bowl before recurring injuries knocked him out of the league. Troup, selected one pick before Gronkowski went to New England at No. 42, has been out of football since 2014.
We all know how the story goes from here. New England, as a result of its team-building success and stability, has dominated the AFC East, winning the division crown in every season of Gronkowski’s career. Thanks to Gronkowski, who posted a line of five catches for 67 yards and a touchdown, they dealt quite a blow to Buffalo’s playoff hopes — which haven’t been fulfilled since 1999 — on Sunday.