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Thursday, April 17, 2014

Gronkowski hopes he can crash K-State’s party

By Kellis Robinett
The Wichita Eagle

It may take a while for Glenn Gronkowski to become a contributor for the Kansas State football team, but there is little doubt that he will help the Wildcats before his college career is over.

One look at his last name should tell you that much.

Gronkowski, a freshman fullback from Amherst, N.Y., comes from one of the most accomplished sports families in the country. Three of his brothers – Dan, Chris and, most famously, Rob – made it to the NFL, another, Gordie, was a minor-league baseball player and his father cofounded G&G Fitness.

They share a bloodline and a deep bond through athletics. No matter what problems Gronkowski encounters on the playing field, they are there to help.

“It’s nice they are always there for me,” Gronkowski said. “They are my biggest fans. I always know they are going to be there to support me. It’s just nice. Anytime I need help I know they are going to be there.”

They will show their support in person at K-State’s spring football game on Saturday. Gronkowski said his entire family, minus Rob, will be in attendance at Snyder Family Stadium. The standout tight end for the New England Patriots has a previous engagement. Gronkowski is ready to bring his max effort to the scrimmage with them looking on.

It should be quite a spectacle to see most of the Gronkowski family in the same place. The last time that happened was when they visited Rob during Super Bowl week, and the Gronkowskis let the world know how much they enjoyed the party scene. Rob was infamously photographed shirtless on stage with the pop band LMFAO shortly after the Patriots lost to the Giants. His brothers were in attendance.

When asked what it was like to spend that much time with his family, Gronkowski smiled.

“Fun,” he said. “It always is when we’re together. We like to have a good time. We don’t get to see each other that often, but when we do.…”

He says his family, which goes by the nickname Gronk Nation, prides itself on “enjoying life” and often uses the phrase “Get Gronk’d.” Translated, it means “Going as hard as possible at all times.”

What will Gronk Nation do for fun over the weekend in Manhattan? Will Aggieville be large enough to entertain them?

“I guess we’ll find out,” Gronkowski said.

During K-State’s weekly news conference on Tuesday, Gronkowski showed off his fun-loving style by wearing jeans and a polo shirt instead of the Bill Snyder approved K-State sports coat and dress pants. He also sported a rubber bracelet that advertised his family’s website (Gronknation.com) and told stories about what it was like growing up in the same house as four future pro athletes.

A first-class weight room in the basement helped him develop muscle, wrestling matches that sometimes ended with broken furniture built toughness and watching each of his brothers turn limited scholarship offers into successful careers taught him work ethic.

Gronkowski’s only football options coming out of high school were at Buffalo and K-State. He chose the Wildcats, because of Bill Snyder’s reputation as a football coach and offensive coordinator Dana Dimel’s history with Rob — Dimel coached him at Arizona.

Some have speculated that Gronkowski could become as good or better than his most successful sibling, and that’s his goal.

“You never know,” Gronkowski said. “We’ll see. Hopefully these coaches can get me there.”

But that will take some time. When he committed to K-State, he wasn’t physically ready to join the roster.

As a high school senior, he decided to pursue baseball at the next level but gave football another chance when no one selected him in the MLB Draft. He picked K-State late, and spent last season at home trying to add muscle. His first practices with the Wildcats came this spring.

He is up to 226 pounds, but thinks he needs to get to 240 before he can compete with senior fullback Braden Wilson for playing time.

“I’m just trying to learn the plays right now and put on a little weight,” Gronkowski said. “I’ve got a little way to go.”

The finished product should be worth the wait.

“He is going to be a good player in time,” Snyder said. “He’s still in the process of learning. He is a young guy that is a physical player. He plays hard and practices hard. He has some capabilities. We are playing him basically as a fullback but he could probably fit in a lot of places.”

NOTES

K-State players competed in a full-scale scrimmage on Saturday, and several players stood out to Snyder. He said Blake Slaughter is showing consistency as the team’s top backup inside linebacker, that Robert Rose is pushing Angelo Pease for the backup running back spot behind John Hubert and that Tavarius Bender is beginning to show his skills at quarterback. Of his starters, Snyder said he was impressed with kicker Anthony Cantele and receivers Chris Harper and Tyler Lockett.

•  If former Northwest running back DeMarcus Robinson continues to improve the way he has during spring football practices, Snyder thinks he could see some carries next season.

“He has shown me some things of late I hadn’t really seen before,” Snyder said.

•  The format of Saturday’s spring game hasn’t been decided, but Snyder said the Wildcats may break away from their usual practice of matching first-team offense against second-team defense and second-team offense against first-team defense. Snyder said he will make a decision on Thursday.

•  On the basketball front, coach Bruce Weber took a step toward hiring another assistant coach to his staff on Tuesday. Alvin Brooks, who has served as an assistant with Sam Houston State since 2010, was in town for an interview. Weber has two positions to fill. Shawn Forrest, who interviewed for one of the openings two weeks ago, has taken a similar position at LSU.

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