By Charlotte Wilder
FOX Sports Columnist
LAS VEGAS, Nevada— Rob Gronkowski jumped off the stage and grabbed hold of a metal structure supporting loudspeakers. He hung in front of a crowd of thousands for a moment, and people went wild, reaching out to the future NFL Hall of Fame. Some held up larger-than-life cutouts of his head.
Gronkowski smiled, did several pull-ups and fell back on stage, where he continued dancing to an electronic remix of Earth, Wind & Fire’s “September” that blasted through the sea of revelers. Gronkowski’s four brothers, his father, Gordon, and his girlfriend, Camille Kostek – model, actress and star in her own right – have been circling on and off the stage to dance with Gronkowski, but the star of the show is not part. It was almost 4 p.m. and he had been there for 2 p.m.
A woman in a bikini and Tampa Bay swimsuit tensed against the barriers at the front of the stage, shouting “Gronk!” When the tight end looked at the crowd in her direction, she shouted, “Tell me you’re coming back to Tampa!”
Gronkowski did not seem to hear.
The tickets – priced around $50 for women and $100 for men because Vegas will always be Vegas – won swimsuit revelers a day of dancing and drinking in the sun with The Chainsmokers, an incredibly popular that draws crowds to the Encore Beach Club on a weekend afternoon.
But this time, Gronkowski was the main and most fitting attraction: about half a mile away, the next class of football players were being drafted into the NFL’s 32 teams.
If these kids are lucky, in 12 years they could be the ones doused the crowd with champagne.
Last time I was in Gronk Beach was in 2020 and the world would stop in about a month. Rain poured down on Miami Beach the day before the Chiefs won the Super Bowl, and revelers took shelter in tents. But not Gronkowski – he, his brothers, his father and Kostek danced in the rain for five straight hours. Musical artists such as Diplo, Kaskade, Rick Ross, Flo Rida and Carnage took turns spinning beats and holding the mic, but Gronkowski and his family were the constant.
I could talk about everything that has changed in the world since then, but I won’t because you already know that, and it’s extremely depressing.
But in terms of Gronkowski-related NFL news, the amount of change since February 2020 is almost staggering. At the time, Tom Brady was still a Patriot, Gronkowski was still retired, and Tampa Bay hadn’t won a Super Bowl since 2001. Julian Edelman, an oft-mentioned Patriot along with Brady and Gronkowski, was still an active player.
Patriots head coach Bill Belichick showed up to Gronk Beach Part I in flip flops and a gingham shirt to grit his teeth and smile at a step-and-repeat sponsored by Monster Energy. If his plan was to convince Gronkowski to come back to New England, he clearly failed because you know what happened next: Brady persuaded Gronkowski to come out of retirement to join him in Tampa, Edelman retired and the Bucs won a championship a year later. . Then Brady retired and did not retire.
As of now, Gronkowski is still on the Bucs’ roster. He said he was staying fit but did not decide if he would play.
Belichick wasn’t at Gronk Beach this year, but Edelman was. He took to the stage behind his former family bandmate Gronkowski, having fun in a matching yellow terrycloth ensemble. Edelman now lives in Los Angeles, where he recently took his 5-year-old daughter to kindergarten orientation. (And no, he has no plans to join the Bucs.)
Behind Edelman, Gronkowski’s agent Drew Rosenhaus, a super-agent who has negotiated more than $7 billion in NFL contracts, watched the festivities with a smirk and arms crossed. He wore a gray T-shirt that had “Rosenhaus Sports” written on it and jeans, which was definitely the most normal outfit at Gronk Beach.
I asked him if he ever imagined that when he signed Gronkowski 12 years ago.
“No,” he said immediately, shaking his head. “No idea. It’s unbelievable.
“And he’s a really good person.”
That’s what a lot of people in the football industry say about Gronkowski. There aren’t many superstar athletes who are as generous with their time as he is and outwardly care about their fans as much as he does. Not only did he stay on stage most of the day, but he also grabbed the phones of revelers in the crowd and took selfies before returning them to their owners.
He signed everything fans threw at him. Instead of showing up, shaking a few hands, taking a few photos, waving to the crowd and doing his own thing, Gronkowski’s actions seemed to say, “You paid to be here to see me, so I’ll give it to you.” for your money. “His brothers may have been drinking vodka from the bottle, but Gronkowski never looked so wild while I was there.
And when the Chainsmokers took the stage, Gronkowski was right next to them. Shortly after, I had to get off stage because I found the Chainsmokers squeaky, and the structure vibrated so much from the bass that it gave me a headache. I had never been to a party in Las Vegas, and I can’t say that’s for me; 33, turns out that might be too old to go to Gronk Beach – although Russell Westbrook of the Lakers, also 33, walked past me looking very calm, so maybe that I’m just washed.
The reality of the Gronk Beach party made what Gronkowski was doing all the more impressive. He will also turn 33 in a few weeks and has suffered numerous injuries, but he still has the physical capacity and stamina to jump, dance and pump for hours. Not to mention the emotional stamina to respond to anyone who asks for a photo, an autograph or a little attention because they want to feel seen by a superstar.
The idea of being a millionaire throwing a party and making it incredibly fun might sound like a dream job, but it’s probably not as easy as it sounds. Neither has played in the NFL for 12 years and won multiple championships.
So it was poignant (or as poignant as a Vegas beach party could get) that Gronk Beach took place on NFL Draft weekend. Because Gronkowski is the ultimate success story of the Draft.
He’s the best possible version of what each of this year’s prospects could become (and what many sadly won’t become): a multi-millionaire who’s so marketable that brands demand their names be attached to him and who can sell thousands of $100 a pop tickets to fans who want to say they partied with him.
Getting drafted is tough, and so is succeeding in the league. Gronkowski did both while maintaining his reputation as a decent person (in a company where that’s not too common) and his image of being a lovable goof.
In doing so, he took his family with him and catapulted them to levels of fame they probably wouldn’t have achieved on their own.
Granted, Gronkowski was the one to win the NFL contract, but his family plays a vital role in his success outside of the league. His loud brothers are a big part of his story. They bring so much fun energy to an event that even I – a person attending a Las Vegas party alone, without the use of alcohol – laughed a few times.
It was hard not to have fun at Gronk Beach, and Gronkowski’s dad certainly did. He couldn’t stop smiling all afternoon, hopping around with his sons in a pink shirt that said “PAPA GRONK” on the back (all the brothers had personalized shirts, too), several faux leis, and a pair of very 90s sunglasses.
“I couldn’t have predicted this,” he said, taking a rare break from the scene. “But it was a great race.”
Charlotte Wilder is a generalist columnist and co-host of “The People’s Sports Podcastfor FOX Sports. She’s honored to represent the consistently overlooked Boston area in sports media, loves talking to sports fans about their feelings, and is happiest eating a hot dog in a stadium or nachos in a stadium. Follow her on Twitter @TheWilderThings.
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