TE Dan Gronkowski, University of Maryland
With head coach Ralph Friedgen turning over the offense to coordinator James Franklin, the new West Coast offensive system saw Gronkowski emerge as a quality receiver. Already regarded as one of college football's premier blockers, the Terrapin Council team leader was never really a focal point of the team's aerial attack during his first three seasons, but that all changed during his final campaign.
With Franklin returning to run the offense, Gronkowski saw plenty of action as the safety valve target for the Terps. "I think having a new offensive coordinator has really added a new excitement to our program," Friedgen said. "I like our staff. They relate to the kids well and I think the kids are having more fun." Franklin was the offensive coordinator at Kansas State the last two years after spending one season with the Green Bay Packers.
Gronkowski's blocking prowess is the byproduct of his incredible strength. The former prep quarterback registered the second-highest strength index on the team in spring 2008 testing. He also boasts a career-best squat of 635 pounds, the second-best figure by a Maryland tight end, topped only by the 685-pound lift from Vernon Davis (49ers). In each of his last four offseasons, the tight end received Iron Terp honors, a recognition for his outstanding performances in the training room.
Having received his master's in Marketing after just three years at Maryland, Gronkowski comes from a sports-oriented family. His older brother, Gordie, Jr., was a first baseman for Jacksonville University from 2003-06. His brother, Chris, was a teammate at Maryland for two seasons (2005-06), where he played fullback.
Chris later transferred to the University of Arizona, sitting out the 2007 season under NCAA transfer rules. He is presently competing as a H-Back for the Wildcats, playing alongside their younger brother, Rob, a Freshman All-American tight end in 2007.
Gronkowski was a multi-sport standout at Williamsville North High School. He earned four letters in football, playing for head coach Mike Mammoliti. He started as a wide receiver during his sophomore campaign, setting a school single-season record with 539 yards receiving.
He switched to quarterback for his final two campaigns, completing 122 of 207 passes (58.9 percent) for 1,407 yards and 16 touchdowns as a senior. His completion, yardage and touchdown totals were all school annual records. He was named League Offensive Most Valuable Player and was a Western New York All-Academic team selection. He also added four letters in baseball, three in basketball and one in hockey.
Gronkowski turned down scholarship offers from Arizona, Purdue and Syracuse, joining Maryland in 2003 as a grey-shirt. He deferred 2004 spring enrollment to join the team in time for the January 2004 Gator Bowl clash vs. West Virginia. He spent the 2004 season redshirting on the scout team, where the new tight end was a Scout Team Player of the Week pick vs. Duke and Virginia.
In 2005, Gronkowski appeared in five games as a reserve, as both of his catches, good for 37 yards, led to Terrapin scoring drives (one set up a field goal, the other, a fourth-down conversion, led to a Maryland touchdown). As a sophomore, he shared tight end duties with Joey Haynos, starting seven games at the traditional tight end position and two more at H-Back. He caught just two passes for 11 yards, but one resulted in his first career touchdown and the other set up a Maryland field goal. It was his stellar blocking that caught pro scouts' notice, as he registered 70 knockdowns/key blocks that included 11 timely hits downfield and 10 others that resulted in Terrapin touchdowns.
As a junior, Gronkowski started the team's first eight games before a left knee sprain vs. Clemson would sideline him for two contests. He would return to play in a reserve role for the final three games. The C.P. "Lefty" McIntosh Public Service Award recipient and Academic All-Atlantic Coast Conference choice also received Academic All-American consideration.
He pulled in seven passes for 66 yards (9.4 avg), as five of those grabs produced first downs. Three of his receptions were for 10 yards or longer, as he set up two touchdown drives and three other series that ended with Terps' field goals with his key catches. He delivered nine touchdown-resulting blocks, 10 blocks downfield and a total of 48 knockdowns, grading 86.63 percent for blocking consistency, the highest grade of any tight end in the nation during the season.
Gronkowski earned Academic All-District II first-team accolades and was an All-Atlantic Coast Conference honorable mention. The recipient of the team's A.V. Williams Award for outstanding sportsmanship, he also earned the George Boutselis Memorial Award, given to the player with the highest grade point average, earning that honor for the second straight season in 2008.
As a senior, Gronkowski started 12 games. After catching just 11 passes in his first three seasons, the Terrapin Council member hauled in a career-high 29 passes, good for 287 yards (9.9 avg) and three touchdowns. He also continued his excellence as a blocker, as he registered 66 knockdowns, coming up with 11 touchdown-resulting blocks.
40 Yard Dash : 4.68 seconds
Bench Press : 26.0 reps
Vertical Jump : 33.0 inches
Broad Jump : 122.0 inches (10'2")
3 Cone Drill : 6.92 seconds
20 Yard Shuttle : 4.26 seconds
60 Yard Shuttle : 11.72 seconds
This guy looks like a heck of an athlete..... and also looks like a capable football player. Oh.... and he is smart as well.
I don't know how this guy lasted until the #255 pick.