Sunday, 29 January 2012

Unleash the Gronknandez

Back in 1994 I played for the Crawley Raiders II in the British American Football League. I made the decision to play tight-end and throughout the build up to the season I practised with both the receivers and the offensive line.

I was looking forward to my first game, wearing the #85 on my chest, and dreamt of catching the winning touchdown every Sunday. Truth was our center got hurt before the opening kickoff of our first game, so as someone who supposedly had o.k. hands I was thrust into the middle of the offensive line.

I'll never forget my first offensive snap. Not only did I get punched in the stomach I also fumbled the ball and the opposition recovered. Hardly the most auspicious start. I can say that for the rest of the game I remained as center I didn't fumble again, but I did keep getting punched in the gut. I moaned at the referee in the first quarter, but by the second I just took a deep breath every snap and tried my best to get under the defensive tackle's pads as soon as I snapped the ball.

I had to play center and even defensive tackle during that season, but I am proud to say that I did eventually get to start at tight-end around the middle of the season. We ran the ball mostly and the primary role of the tight-end was to block the defensive-end or go and find an outside linebacker to hit.

I do recall on a rather blustery day pleading to my quarterback that I would be open on the next play if I ran a 15 yard curl route as I had been blocking the whole drive. I did my job that next play, hitting a defender and staggering back a bit, but this time I ran up the field (well jogged) and bang the quarterback threw me the pigskin. I got the catch and the touchdown, and became the first tight-end ever to score six for the Crawley Raiders II.

So why the trip down memory lane you ask? Well it was to try and clumsily say that I have seen the game from the perspective of a tight-end, and it is a position that has often been under utilised, until the 2011 New England Patriots came along.

Led by the coaching genius of three-time Super Bowl winning coach Bill Belichick and three-time Super Bowl winning quarterback Tom Brady, the Pats have used two tight-ends to get all the way to the slow dance at the prom.

Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez, or as I call them the Gronkandez, have set records that I doubt will be beaten. The pair combined for 169 catches, 2,237 yards and 24 touchdowns in 16 regular season games.

In two playoff games they have 26 catches, 353 yards and four scores. Insane stats for two guys who are the most feared double act since Charles Bronson and Chuck Norris decided to get together for a crown green bowls tournament in Florida in 1988.

It's not often that a Super Bowl build-up focus is on tight-ends, but this is already the Gronkandez Bowl.

Talk of Rob Gronkowski's recovery from an ankle injury, gained in the AFC Championship game last weekend, is the number one topic for journalists, and this is causing every 'expert' to say that the real dark horse for a monster game is actually Aaron Hernandez.

Not quite true. Hernandez is due a monster game with or without Gronkowski in the lineup. Fact is Gronk is going to play, and so in Hernandez.

No-one has stopped the pair so far, and in my opinion, even the might of the Giants defense wont be enough to prevent the unleashing of the Gronkandez.

That's right Eli Manning may be good but he is no Perseus.

Bring on the Clash of the Titans.

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