JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. -- Two-time Super Bowl Champion, Rob Gronkowski, All-Pro tight end for the New England Patriots, could be expected to be having fun during his time off before training camp begins next month, yet Wednesday afternoon the Gronk was found honoring the Soldiers at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington, with an autograph session at the Lewis Main Exchange.
"It's just an honor to come here and see the men and women in uniform and see how happy they are to be able to come through and get a picture and autograph from me," said Gronkowski. "It's a blessing too at the same time, and I want to thank everyone, all the men and women in uniform, for fighting for our country. They're our real heroes."
There was no shortage of appreciative fans who lined up hours in advance for a chance to get a photo and autograph with Gronkowski, who did not disappoint, signing shirts, footballs and other items while taking photos with those who attended.
Gronkowski in his 8-year career has 76 touchdowns in 102 games, made 5 All-Pro teams, and 5 Pro Bowls. However, his successes have come at price. Throughout his Patriots career, Gronkowski has suffered a litany of injuries, including a broken left forearm, torn right ACL and MCL, sprained ankle, tweaked hamstring, concussion and severely bruised chest. In 2016 his season was cut short by a ruptured disk which required back surgery.
His injuries are not unlike the injuries many Soldiers in the Army have experienced which led us to wonder what advice he might provide to injured troops regarding how they too can be as resilient as he's been in overcoming serious, sometimes career ending injuries.
"You just have to stay positive from the beginning and you got to learn from what you're going through too," Gronkowski said. "The tough times don't last; tough people do for sure."
He went on to explain that the road to recovery wasn't easy, that he had to learn how to rebuild himself, and that he did so by making some other part of him stronger, to take over the load that was hurt.
"It's just a building process, and if you take it seriously, and you learn from it, you can come back even stronger and better," Gronkowski added.
It must be working as the Gronk participated in the Patriots mini-camp earlier this month and is expected to report for training camp at Foxborough, Massachusetts, July 26, as the Patriots gear up for another attempt at adding their sixth Lombardi trophy to the trophy case.