FOXBOROUGH — With so much being made about how the tight end position has transformed the National Football League, especially those tight ends who came late to the game after having played basketball collegiately (a la San Diego’s Antonio Gates and New Orleans’ Jimmy Graham), Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski was asked today if he had any experience playing basketball.
“Yeah, I’ve hooped it up in high school and intramurals in college,” said the 6-foot-6-inch, 265-pound Gronkowski, who had a career day last Saturday night’s 45-10 demolition of the Denver Broncos in the AFC divisional round with his 10 receptions for 145 yards and three touchdowns, which tied the NFL record for most TD receptions in a postseason game.
Dave Casper of the Oakland Raiders had 3 TD catches vs. Baltimore Dec. 24, 1977.
Despite his limited experience on the basketball court, Gronkowski believes it has served him well on the gridiron and will continue to do so when the Patriots host the Baltimore Ravens in Sunday’s AFC Championship game at Gillette Stadium.
“I feel like [basketball experience] brings something important to the game,” Gronkowski said, as he stood surrounded by media in the Patriots locker room today. “If you’ve got to get open against a guy smaller than you, you box them out. You kind of get big. You get the ball thrown right to your chest and you box out the defender so you can make the catch.
“I believe jump balls, too, you’re going up in the air and grabbing the ball and everything, so, yeah, I’d say [playing] basketball definitely helped out. That’s why you see other great tight ends who played basketball in college and everything doing what they’re doing because I feel like it translates right into the game of football.”