Special edition: Gronk on Brady; "White Shoes,'' Mitchell on Hall

Rob Gronkowski has become a student of the game to convince Tom Brady to throw to him.

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(Rob Gronkowski photo courtesy NE Patriots)

Talk of Fame Network

New England Patriots All-World tight end Rob Gronkowski dropped in on the Talk of Fame Network this week and revealed that Tom Brady wasn’t always that anxious to throw him the football.

Considering he’s already set the single-season record for touchdown receptions and yardage by a tight end -- and his 68 receiving TDs rank third all-time behind only Tony Gonzalez and Antonio Gates after just six NFL seasons -- that may seem hard to believe.

But Gronkowski says you better believe it.

“I couldn’t feel the coverages (at first),’’ Gronkowski said of his early years in New England. “Tom didn’t want to throw it to me if I didn’t sit down in the right spot.’’

Gronkowski is considered an Einstein of the passing game these days, able to think on the run while filtering through the numerous options he has on each pass route. He not only has to conclude what the coverage is but, just as importantly, understand how Brady will see it. Until he did he wasn’t getting the football -- and he likes getting the football so he knew what was necessary.

“You can’t just show up, even if you’re physically bigger, faster and stronger and think you got it,’’ Gronkowski explained. “I’d say it surprised me how much mental side of football there is. I was a couple of years into the NFL before I understood it. I thought you just had to work hard and get stronger (and that's) was all there is. Under coach Belichick and Tom I saw the importance of the mental side.’’

Growing up outside of Buffalo, Gronkowski didn’t so much pattern his game after his favorite player but rather looked to blend the best of three worlds into one tight end.

“Growing up I was a Jeremy Shockey fan,’’ he said. “I liked Tony Gonzalez and Antonio Gates, too. I loved Gates. I liked those three guys big-time growing up. I never had just one guy. I wanted to be my own self.’’

He certainly is that.

So too is Billy “White Shoes’’ Johnson, the only member of the NFL’s 75th anniversary team not in the Hall of Fame and one of the few players in NFL history to make TWO all-decade teams but not the Hall. White Shoes dropped by not to do the Funky Chicken but to recall how he made that dance the first NFL celebration -- not to mention why he thinks he’s been ignored by Hall-of-Fame voters.

“At the time I was playing look-around-the-league,’’ Johnson said. “We used returns as an offensive weapon. I don’t know if they (the HOF voters) know how important special teams are.

“Yeah I really do believe I belong but shoot, I’m biased. It’s an honor just to be recognized. If it happens it would be great but I don’t lose any sleep over it.’’

Neither does one of the most prolific yardage producers in NFL history. Brian Mitchell is first all-time in kick return yardage and punt return yardage, second all-time in all-purpose yardage and second all-time in special teams touchdowns. So how is he not in the Hall?

“People try to act as if players on special teams get free yards but you don’t see many names up there (with his),’’ said Mitchell. “Every coach in every locker room is discussing special teams.’’

Our guys -- Hall of Fame voters Rick Gosselin, Ron Borges and Clark Judge -- discuss that and more on this week’s show including the troubling and inconsistent performance of NFL officials this season, the relationships of Tom Brady and Bill Belichick with President-elect Donald Trump and the Hall’s controversial decision not to award a Hall-of-Fame ring or gold jacket to the family of the late Ken Stabler after his induction this summer.

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