'I got to make this kick': Rob Gronkowski anxiously prepares to make money for bettors
Rob Gronkowski played in five Super Bowls during his Hall of Fame career and hoisted the Lombardi Trophy four times.
This big game is the one he's most nervous for, though. The circumstances are quite different.
The former tight end turned celebrity will kick a 25-yard field goal live between the third and fourth quarter as part of FanDuel promotion that will give customers $10 million in free bets.
"Playing football, I was doing that for six months prior to the Super Bowl game, so that was what I did. That was my job. I had the tight end position down," Gronkowski told USA TODAY Sports on Thursday. "I had to catch? I could catch. I had to block? I could block.
"So I’m kicking a field goal, and I can’t kick a field goal."
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Training with Adam Vinatieri
Nobody knows big kicks on the big stage quite like Adam Vinatieri, who kicked in the league with the New England Patriots and Indianapolis Colts from 1996-2019 and won three Super Bowls.
Gronkowski and Vinatieri have already logged three training sessions (each approximately 90-minutes long) at a Boston-area fieldhouse. He takes about 50 to 60 attempts per practice session.
"I’d never done the soccer-style kicking before," Gronkowski said. "I used to actually kick field goals, I loved kicking them when I was younger. But it was always straight with the toe style. So it’s definitely a challenge doing this new way of kicking."
They started by indoctrinating Gronkowski with the basics of kicking, and he compared it to starting golf. Repetition is key for muscle memory, making the range of motion more efficient and increasing the power in his leg. FanDuel produced a 1980s-style training montage earlier this month.
"The practice sessions are getting better every single time," Gronkowski said. "I want to hit it. I have to practice to a point where I’m not nervous anymore and I’m confident about it. I’m getting confident more and more as I practice more."
Super Bowl kick: 'It's for America'
During his first training session, Gronkowski estimated he made 10% of the kicks. The second session saw an improvement to 50%, and he's now up to a 75% rate. But he wants it up to 98%.
"Because I got to make this kick," Gronkowski said. "It’s for America. It’s $10 million in free bets for America."
The training has only increased his respect toward NFL kickers, during a time the position has come under fire due to the mishaps of Dallas Cowboys kicker Brett Maher during the playoffs.
"The pressure is unbelievable, just how they come through in the clutch every single time," Gronkowski said. "I just respect them even more. It’s an art to be able to kick. You got to be fully dedicated to the craft, and it’s a craft that you have to work on every single day to be great."
Gronkowski joins Fox broadcasts for playoffs
Gronkowski's media presence has only increased since he retired for a second time following the 2021 season. (He also took the 2019 season off, only to reunite with Tom Brady on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for two seasons.)
Gronkowski has slid into the FOX studio show alongside Howie Long, Michael Strahan, Terry Bradshaw and Jimmy Johnson and is enjoying the work. He'll be on the sidelines of Lincoln Financial Field on Sunday before and during the network's NFC championship game broadcast.
"They’re just such great guys," Gronkowski said. "They opened their arms with a big hug to welcome me to the family and I feel like I get more comfortable every single week that I’m on air."
Asked if there was a better chance of he and Brady being teammates at FOX in 2023 or on the field, Gronkowski responded:
"I would say we’re going to be teammates on FOX," he said. "He’s seen the job I’m doing. I’m still in the playoffs, he’s not. So I think if he comes to FOX, he’s guaranteed playoffs and Super Bowls every single year."
Gronkowski likes O'Brien returning to Patriots
For the first two seasons of his career, Bill O'Brien was Gronkowski's offensive coordinator. O'Brien, the former Penn State and Houston Texans head coach, returned this week to turn around a Patriots offense that regressed last season.
Gronkowski said the O'Brien pairing with quarterback Mac Jones is "a match made in heaven."
"He just has a niche to help you learn the game of football, has a niche to get you to go out on the field to get better every single day," Gronkowski said. "He’s great at getting his players to have mismatches and to have the advantage and to make plays. So he’s definitely going to spark that offense and take it to another level."
Rob Gronkowski's perfect Sunday
Gronkowski spoke to USA TODAY through his partnership with Bounty and said "all you need is three things every Sunday: Football, wings and Bounty." On Friday, he wore a green suit on the "TODAY" show as part of the promotion.
"It's dapper," he said.
Follow Chris Bumbaca on Twitter @BOOMbaca.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Rob Gronkowski anxiously prepares for latest Super Bowl role