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Bills OC Brian Daboll on Rob Gronkowski: 'He was a really good guy to coach'

The Gronk persona is that of a goofy, fun-loving, care-free character who took almost nothing seriously.

That isn't the person Buffalo Bills offensive coordinator Brian Daboll remembers during the three seasons he worked with Rob Gronkowski as the New England Patriots' tight ends coach from 2014 to 2016.

"He was a really good guy to coach," Daboll told The Buffalo News by phone Sunday, after learning that the Western New York native had announced his retirement as an NFL player. “I've got a ton of respect for him, with how he handled himself in terms of his preparation habits, in the classroom with me and then going out and trying to compete at a high level every week. He was a very, very smart football player, had great intelligence for the game. He understood leverage, angles, pass concepts.

"He was really a great pro. Everybody sees the other side of Rob, whatever that may be, but Rob always showed up on time, early. He was really good in the meetings, went out there and practiced with everything he had. I learned a lot from him."

Daboll, who joined the Bills last year, considered himself "fortunate" to have been around Gronkowski during their time with the Patriots, calling him both a "heck of a player and a heck of a person” when it came to Daboll and his family.

"First of all, he had all of the physical talent in the world," the coach said. "He was big, strong, fast, had good length for that position. He had excellent physical and mental toughness. And when he was put under pressure situations, you could count on him to deliver."

That the Patriots were able to count on Gronkowski as much as they could despite the many well-documented injuries he suffered during nine NFL seasons was, Daboll said, the result of a player who took far better care his body than one might assume given his image as a heavy partier.

"Look, injuries sometimes are fluke things, too," Daboll said. "But, again, from what he ate to how he worked, to the treatment that he got, I think was a testament to him. I just think he's a very mentally, physically tough guy. And when you can have mental toughness and physical toughness, having both of those qualities is something that can get you a long way."

Will it take Gronkowski all the way to Canton? Many NFL observers believe his accomplishments, which include multiple receiving records for a tight end, are deserving of first-ballot induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Daboll feels that topic is best left to the voters.

"He's, obviously, the best one I've ever coached," Daboll said. "I'm sure he's right up there."

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