A Brief History Of The Gronkowski Spike
Photo via New England Patriots / Facebook
Rob Gronkowski’s method of celebrating a touchdown is blissfully unsophisticated performance art. On Oct. 28 in London, the jumbo Patriot punctuated scores by imitating a Queen’s guardsman and thrusting like Duff Man. The latter inspired Patriots Football Weekly to go with the headline “International Love.”
Unsurprisingly, Gronkowski concluded each routine by slamming the football into the turf. The Gronk Spike, which now has its own Urban Dictionary entry, is the kind of maneuver that spawns thousands of adolescent (and adolescent-minded) imitators each and every week. It may be hard to believe, but the thunderous spike wasn’t always synonymous with Gronkowski. So when did it become the prolific tight end’s signature move?
The Gronk Spike debuted on Sept. 26, 2010, during the third quarter of the third game of his rookie season. After catching a 5-yard touchdown pass that extended New England’s lead over Buffalo, Gronkowski kicked up his left knee, hopped a few times on his right leg, and windmilled the ball into the ground. If you watch the video (start at 1:50) you can see Gronkowski glance up at the object he’d just attempted to bounce into Gillette Stadium’s upper deck. There was also something fitting about the fact that as he celebrated, his massive left shoe was untied.
The local media didn’t mention of Gronk’s post-TD ruckus until this Sept. 29 Herald item:
… But you also know that Gronk has two brothers in the NFL—Chris with the Cowboys and Dan with the Broncos. And, turns out, Chris scored a touchdown last week, then called out his Rob on Twitter saying, “I heard my spike after the catch was better than his. Lol.”
I had to get a response from the Patriots’ version.
“Yeah, his was not as good as mine,” Rob said today. “He knows. He spiked it or something. His is never as good as mine.”
But the Gronk Spike didn’t immediately stick. It only showed up again on a few occasions that year, including twice on the day after Christmas, during the Patriots’ 34-3 win over the Bills. The first came after an early score and led to Rich Garven of the Worcester Telegram & Gazette to note that, “Gronkowski rais[ed] his arms in celebration before violently spiking the ball into the frozen artificial surface.” (The second spike came after he scored in the third quarter. That one went unmentioned, maybe because at that point, Gronkowski wasn’t yet known for his spikes.)
When the 2011 season began, Gronkowski still seemed hesitant to bust out the Gronk Spike. After scoring against Miami in the opener, he gently flipped the ball to the referee. It seemed oddly out of character. Then, six days later against the Chargers, after his second TD of the game, the spike returned for good. Gronkowski finished the year with 17 receiving touchdowns, an NFL record for tight ends. As the Super Bowl approached, Gronk Spike contests started popping up. “All the fans liked it, so I just kept with it,” Gronkowski told the Herald’s Ian Rapoport in late January. “I always wanted to spike. Couldn’t do it in college or high school, so I just started it here.”
This September, after the Summer of Gronk ended, he appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated’s NFL preview issue. “Gronkowski spiked each TD,” Chris Ballard wrote in the accompanying story, “as if he’d just landed on the moon.” The description was apt. That’s Gronk: excitable, cartoonishly powerful, and not bound by gravity.