Rob Gronkowski is out of the game that brought him fame, having retired from the NFL after nine seasons of excellence as the Patriots’ tight end.
But when it comes to post-football opportunities — which include remaining in the spotlight as an actor, media personality, or even a professional wrestler — his established image and amiable nature already have him ahead of the game.
“The best indicator of his future success outside of football is the strength of his appeal with the general population,’’ said Henry Schafer, executive vice president at Marketing Evaluation Inc., also known as the Q Scores Company. “People know him and like him. He’s going to get some very real opportunities. It’s just matter of what those opportunities will be.’’
A Q Score is a measurement of the familiarity and appeal of a brand, celebrity, company, or entertainment product. The latest measurement the company has for Gronkowski is from February, a month in which he made an extraordinary catch to set up the only touchdown in the Patriots’ 13-3 victory over the Rams in the Super Bowl.
How did Gronkowski fare in terms of Q Score? Better in terms of likability than a certain legendary quarterback who threw him that pass.
Among the general population, Gronkowski had a 39 percent level of awareness. The average sports star is at 26 percent, said Schafer. His positive Q Score was 22, which means 22 percent of the general public that is familiar with him considers him one of their favorite personalities. The average sports star is at 17 percent. His 22 Q Score is sixth among players who were in the NFL last year.
Tom Brady has massive familiarity — 79 percent — but just 20 percent consider him one of their favorites.
“He’s more rigid and private, and much more polarizing with the general public,’’ said Schafer. “Gronkowski comes across as authentic. It’s easy to believe he’s the same happy-go-lucky person behind the scenes as you see during his various [ad] campaigns and appearances.
“He’s in a great position to take advantage of his appeal in the next stage of his professional life, no matter where it may be.’’
So where and what will it be?
The gambling site SportsBetting.ag posted odds Monday on nine career possibilities for Gronkowski. The top three, in order, were professional wrestler (3-2 odds), broadcaster (2-1), and movie/television actor (5-1).
(It should be noted that returning to the NFL, at 10-1, was one of the prop bets, and considering that Gronkowski’s agent, Drew Rosenhaus, couldn’t get through the first day of his client’s retirement without acknowledging that a comeback is a possibility, that’s one to take seriously.)
But if he has taken off an NFL helmet for good, here’s a look at his other career options and how he might fare in them.
■ WWE: It seems like a sure bet that Gronkowski will end up playing a role in some capacity for the popular wrestling/entertainment entity. He already has appeared at WWE events, including WrestleMania 33 two years ago, and WrestleMania 35 is coming up April 7. He clearly enjoys participating, and has spoken to legendary performer Triple H — the organization’s executive vice president of talent – about having a role someday.
“Gronk has mentioned WWE before, that he loves it and said he had so much fun doing [WrestleMania],’’ said Triple H to Sports Illustrated in February. “I don’t know if it’s something he’d be seriously interested in. Certainly the door is open for him at WWE.’’
Dave Meltzer of WrestlingObserver.com said Gronkowski has shown charisma and an ability to sell his lines during his cameos, but wonders whether he would want to put up with the grind of being a WWE regular.
“I could see it being a special-appearances-here-and-there kind of thing,’’ said Meltzer, citing Mojo Rawley as a wrestler with a career path Gronkowski could follow. “Pro football players can be really good at this. Some can be great.
“DeAngelo Williams was excellent in a single event. Kevin Greene was great, but his body was worn out after football. Anyone can do one event. It’s tough to keep doing it. I can’t see Gronkowski, especially with the money he’s made, doing anything more than that.’’
The stage — or the ring, anyway — appears to have already been set for some WWE role for Gronkowski. On WWE’s Twitter account Tuesday, he stood with WWE personalities during an awards event for the USO in the Metro D.C. area. And during its “Monday Night Raw’’ event in Boston this week, manager Lio Rush referred to Gronkowski as a “beaten, broken, hot piece of garbage.’’ Sounds like something that might require revenge in the ring.
■ NFL broadcasting: A few days into his retirement, there hasn’t been any indication that joining an NFL studio show or booth is something Gronkowski is seriously considering.
But if he does, said Seth Markman, a vice president of production for ESPN who oversees all NFL studio shows, it would be wise to utilize his distinctive personality in an unconventional role.
“Gronk’s interesting because obviously he’s so entertaining,’’ said Markman. “He’s unique because I don’t think he would be best served, based on his personality, to be put behind a desk for a pregame show where you say, ‘Hey, Gronk, what do you think the key to the Colts-Chiefs game will be?’ That’s the wrong use of his talents.
“But if he went to a network or ESPN and said, ‘I’m interested in working for you guys in some capacity,’ I think that’s where you get your brain trust together and ask, ‘Where would we be best served using this guy?’
“Because he’s talented and fun. You’d want to shape something around him, like you’re building an offense around a player and playing to specific talents. But I think Gronk is a guy that has a different calling when it comes to TV.’’
■ Movies/television: Gronkowski already has had a different television experience, though it may not have been a specific calling. In 2016, he was one of three hosts of the Nickelodeon show “Crashletes,’’ in which they commented on viral videos and sports bloopers.
He has 12 listings as an actor on his IMDb page, including the “Entourage’’ movie (which, in an irresistible bit of typecasting, featured one scene that required him to chug a beer bong at a party), two movies being released this year, “Boss Level’’ and “Deported,’’ in which he plays someone named Party Guy Jake.
He also appeared in several commercials during his time as a Patriot. While he’s never going to graduate cum laude from the drama division at The Juilliard School, no one says “Tide Pods!’’ more convincingly.
Numerous football players have made the transition to acting — with varying degrees of longevity and success — among them Jim Brown, Howie Long, Ed Marinaro, Brian Bosworth, Terry Crews, and the patron saint for big, charismatic guys with acting dreams, Dwayne “The Rock’’ Johnson.
According to Sports Illustrated, Gronkowski started taking acting classes in 2014. In his own enviable version of the gig economy, acting, like wrestling, appears to be in his near future.
But for now, Schafer said, he should make sure he remains visible.
“His agent should get him on late-night talk shows, morning shows, make sure he’s engaging with women because they’re such an important audience target,’’ he said.
“From what I can see, he’s got that personability that will allow him to do a lot of different things, whether it’s movies, TV and more. I’m curious to see which options he takes, because he has them.’’