Rob Gronkowski opened up this week about the love he still shares for his hometown team, the Buffalo Bills.
Bills fans don’t seem to reciprocate.
Gronkowski will face the Bills for the first time since retiring from the New England Patriots and coming back to join Tom Brady on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Ahead of the critical matchup, Gronkowski spoke about growing just outside of the city of Buffalo and how he and his friends idolized Bills players from his youth — which took place largely during the team’s Drought Era, a 17-year run without a playoff appearance. After Gronkowski’s remarks, many Bills fans remembered how the Patriots tight end helped to extend that era and the role Gronkowski played in one of the most notorious plays in the team’s history.
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Gronkowski Loved Bills Growing Up
Gronkowski grew up in suburban Williamsville, playing football for Williamsville North High School before moving to Pittsburgh for his senior season. As a kid, Gronkowski said he would pretend to be Bills stars of the era when he and his friends played football. So when he has the chance to return to Buffalo or play against the Bills, Gronkowski said it’s always a special moment.
“The Bills do mean a lot to my family and I,” Gronkowski said, via WKBW. “We grew up in Buffalo, 25 minutes from the stadium. I was a big Bills fan growing up.”
“Whenever I was in the backyard playing football with my friends, my brothers and I, you line up out wide you’re pretending you’re the receiver they had,” Gronkowski added. “Moulds was my favorite player. If you make a stop or big hit you’re acting like Takeo Spikes. The history of the Buffalo Bills goes way back for my family and I from playing in the back yard to watching the games.”
Bills Fans Not so Happy
Gronkowski’s comments did not elicit the same reaction from Bills fans. Video of the interview posted by Tampa reporter Kyle Burger attracted a number of angry comments from those who remember one of Gronkowski’s most notorious moment playing in Buffalo. Back in 2017, Gronkowski was handed the only suspension of his career after a late hit on then-rookie cornerback Tre’Davious White. The hit came after White intercepted a Brady pass late in the fourth quarter of what would be a blowout Patriots win.
Many Bills fans referenced the play in response to Gronkowski’s comments.
“Cool. And yeah, it was really special when he concussed rookie Tre White in front of the home crowd with a cheap shot that was WELL after the play,” tweeted Del Reid, the co-founder of the Buffalo fan group Bills Mafia.
The incident is behind both Gronkowski and the Bills — White said he was ready to move on by the time the teams met again, and Gronkowski apologized immediately after the game.
“I want to apologize to No. 27,” Gronkowski said, via CBS Sports. “I’m not in the business of that. I mean, there was a lot of frustration and I was just really frustrated at that moment and it just happened naturally through emotions. … I just want to apologize to Tre’Davious White.”
It appears that Bills fans aren’t so quick to forgive and forget.