Rob Gronkowski No. 21 on NFL Top 100

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Rob Gronkowski No. 21 on NFL Top 100

As NFL Network continues ticking down on its list of Top 100 Players of 2012, another Patriot is named.

Rob Gronkowski is ranked at 21.

The record-breaking Patriots tight end did a remote interview with a quartet of NFL Total Access analysts: Kurt Warner, Steve Mariucci, Warren Sapp, and Heath Evans.

On being the No. 2 tight end on the countdown:
First off, it's just an honor to be even recognized as a Top 100 player. To be at 21, just my second year in the league it's just an honor for me. Got to stay humble, and just got to keep grinding every single day and every single year. Just keep working hard.

Warner asks what it is about the Patriots system that fosters success:
Just everyone around you. Everyone's in, all for each other. Having a great supporting cast around me from the coaches to the players. Everyone has one goal, and it's to win. No matter how you can get it done If it's one of the wide receivers having 14 catches a game, three touchdowns. Or if it's a running back having a good game, or if it's one of us tight ends having a good game. We're all in it for each other, we're all there to support each other and that's all everyone wants to do -- we just play together as a team to get that victory.

Mariucci inquires into Gronkowski's offseason goals:
Just to improve my game every single game. First off, getting in the playbook, learning the offense; you can never not know the offense 100-percent. Just always learning more and more every time you step out on the field. And also, just using every single aspect of the game, from blocking and pass catching-wise -- just focusing and getting better in every single thing. Taking my weaknesses and making them stronger and taking my strengths and making them better. Just working on every single aspect of my game so that when training camp comes rolling into the season, I'm ready, strong and ready to roll.

What's your favorite route, Sapp asks:
My favorite route is definitely the flag route. I just love giving the little shake at the top, at 10-12 yards and bursting out over in the corner. I mean, I'm most comfortable running that route and it's always been my favorite -- ever since high school.

Evans knows all about Bill Belichick's weekly Q&A sessions, but enlighten the fans:
You've just got to be ready for anything, at any time, any type of questions. You just always want to be prepared. You want to know your plays, you want to know your opponents, you want to be studying up on film. Whenever it comes down to a question, your heart is just you're feeling it. You just want to get that question right, whatever it is. It just keeps you on your toes at all times to make sure you're mentally prepared coming in every single week, which is great.

Owen Daniels said Gronkowski is the TE all TEs are measured by. Who do you measure YOURSELF by?
That's an honor that he even said that, Owen Daniels I've actually been looking up to him when I was in college watching him play and everything. That's just an honor to be mentioned like that from other players. My favorite players were Tony Gonzalez, Jason Witten, Antonio Gates just growing up in high school and college watching all them. I still compare myself to them, I still watch their film all the time. I still try to take tips from their game and add it to my game.

And just right now, Jimmy Graham, he's in the same class as me. He's a great player. He's a great tight end. I'm always looking at his game, too. Trying to figure out what he's doing because he's having so much success down there in New Orleans.

So much respect for all the other tight ends out there.

NFLPA tells rookies to be like Rob Gronkowski

NFLPA tells rookies to be like Rob Gronkowski

Rob Gronkowski is a model citizen in the NFL. In fact, the NFL Players Association is advising rookies to be more like Gronk, according to The Boston Globe

The New England Patriots tight end has developed a name for himself on and off the football field. With that attention comes branding. And at the NFLPA Rookie Premiere from May 18 to 20, the NFLPA encouraged rookies to develop their own brand -- much like Gronkowski.

“Some people think he’s just this extension of a frat boy, and that it’s sort of accidental,” Ahmad Nassar said, via The Globe. Nassar is the president of NFL Players Inc., the for-profit subsidiary of the NFLPA. “And that’s wrong. It’s not accidental, it’s very purposeful. So the message there is, really good branding is where you don’t even feel it. You think, ‘Oh, that’s just Gronk being Gronk.’ Actually, that’s his brand, but it’s so good and so ingrained and so authentic, you don’t even know it’s a brand or think it.”

Gronkowski's "Summer of Gronk" has indirectly become one of his streams of income. The tight end makes appearances for magazines and sponsors. Because of his earnings from branding and endorsements, he didn't touch his NFL salary during the early years of his career.

Gronk was one of three players who were the topics of discussion during the symposium. Dak Prescott and Odell Beckham were also used as examples of players who have been able to generate additional income from endorsements. Beckham, in particular, has been in the spotlight off the football field. He's appeared on the cover of Madden, and just signed a deal with NIke which is reportedly worth $25 million over five years with upwards of $48 million over eight years. His deal, which is a record for an NFL player, will pay him more than his contract with the Giants.

“A lot of people talk to the players about, ‘You should be careful with your money and you should treat your family this way and you should treat your girlfriend or your wife.’ Which is fine. I think that’s valuable,” Nassar said, via The Globe. “But we don’t often give them a chance to answer the question: How do you see yourself as a brand? Because Gronk, Odell, none of those guys accidentally ended up where they are from a branding and marketing standpoint.”

Tom Brady delivers video message at funeral of Navy SEAL

Tom Brady delivers video message at funeral of Navy SEAL


Tom Brady delivered a video message last week at the funeral of Navy SEAL Kyle Milliken, a Maine native and former UConn track athlete killed in Somalia on May 5.

Bill Speros of The Boston Herald, in a column this Memorial Day weekend, wrote about Milliken and Brady's message.   

Milliken ran track at Cheverus High School in Falmouth, Maine, and at UConn, where he graduated in 2001. Milliken lived in Virginia Beach, Va., with his wife, Erin, and two children.  He other Navy SEALs participated in a training exercise at Gillette Stadium in 2011 where he met and posed for pictures with Brady.

Speros wrote that at Milliken’s funeral in Virginia Beach, Va., Brady's video offered condolences and thanked Milliken’s family for its sacrifice and spoke of how Milliken was considered a “glue guy” by UConn track coach Greg Roy.

Milliken had served in Iraq and Afghanistan, earning four Bronze Star Medals and was based in Virginia since 2004.  He was killed in a nighttime firefight with Al-Shabaab militants near Barij, about 40 miles from the Somali capital of Mogadishu. He was 38.

The Pentagon said Milliken was the first American serviceman killed in combat in Somalia since the "Black Hawk Down" battle that killed 18 Americans in 1993. 

In a statement to the Herald, Patriots owner Robert Kraft said: “It was an honor to host Kyle and his team for an exercise at Gillette Stadium in 2011. It gave new meaning to the stadium being known as home of the Patriots. We were deeply saddened to hear of Kyle’s death earlier this month.

“As Memorial Day weekend approaches, we are reminded of the sacrifices made by patriots like Kyle and so many others who have made the ultimate sacrifice to defend and protect our rights as Americans. Our thoughts, prayers and heartfelt appreciation are extended to the Milliken family and the many families who will be remembering lives lost this Memorial Day weekend.”