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The Last Happy Man
CHRIS BALLARD
September 03, 2012
Hero. Jester. Prodigy. Knucklehead. The league's best hope and worst nightmare. Rob Gronkowski of the Patriots is a 265-pound bundle of raw energy and rocking good times, and he could become the best tight end in history. Right now, though, he just wants to keep the party going
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September 03, 2012

The Last Happy Man

Hero. Jester. Prodigy. Knucklehead. The league's best hope and worst nightmare. Rob Gronkowski of the Patriots is a 265-pound bundle of raw energy and rocking good times, and he could become the best tight end in history. Right now, though, he just wants to keep the party going

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By 7:30 the beers had worn off and Gronk was contemplating a quick Insanity workout. It was, he said, the first day in the last eight that he hadn't worked out, and he was feeling antsy. "People say, 'He's doing way too many things,' but [I do them] because I got nothing to do," he said, sitting on what he calls his "chill couch" with his huge arms wrapped behind his head. "That's why I hit up every charity event, why I hit up every party I'm invited to. If I'm just sitting at home, that's not productive. That's boring."

He paused, grabbed a nearby pillow, cradled it like a football. "I like going out, meeting new people, having a good time," he continued. "I guess that's why I'm all over the papers. I don't have any girlfriends, no kids. Basically I work out two hours every single day, and then I have 12 hours to do whatever I want."

He looked at me, and I nodded, because it did sound simple. In 10 years, Gronkowski will be worried about so much: concussions and aching joints, possibly a wife and children, bad publicity, who knows what else. For now, though, he exists in that electric, untenable flash of time that is being young, supremely gifted and on top of the world. He is, for a fleeting moment, invincible.

I asked his plan for the night, once he finished his workout.

"Straight chilling," he said.

Then, as I got up to leave, he sensed that on some level I was disappointed—that I'd come to chronicle the wild and crazy Life of Gronk, and here he was, sitting home by himself on a Saturday in a forlorn Boston suburb. As he walked me to the door, he brought the conversation back to that afternoon. "I was hoping it would have been just an all-out college party," he said. "It would have been worth it. I would have been there all night, I would have gotten hammered."

Then he added, quite unnecessarily, "I'm not kidding."

LATER, ON the way back to Boston, the driver told me stories of other athletes: Kevin Faulk, Antoine Walker, Tom Brady. He said Brady, early in his career, was remarkably friendly and polite—he sat up front, not in the back, and always brought dinner out to the driver if he was waiting at a restaurant. Then Brady got famous, and his agent was always involved, and everything changed. The driver remembered taking Brady to a nightclub in Boston after a Super Bowl win and depositing him at a back entrance. Within hours, thousands of people had clogged the streets, desperate to get a glimpse of the star quarterback.

Now the driver wondered what might become of Gronkowski. "He is a nice kid. Polite," the driver said. He paused. "Who knows what he will be like in five years. I hope he is the same."

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