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Four days after retiring, Rob Gronkowski in Buffalo for fundraisers

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Gronkowski Retires Football

Rob Gronkowski waves to fans after a game Dec. 5, 2021, in Atlanta.

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The water bottles were stored in a Bud Light Seltzer cooler. The boom box was playing Big Bootie Mix Vol. 19. And the instructors were wearing Pit Viper sunglasses.

Four days after retiring from the NFL, Rob Gronkowski joined one of his four brothers, Dan, and dozens of others to work out at Fountain Plaza in downtown Buffalo.

The Saturday morning workout was held by NexGen Fitness Buffalo, which is owned by the Gronkowski brothers and opened in May 2021. It was for a good cause, benefiting the nonprofit Friends of Carly, which is why the Amherst native and former tight end made sure to be there.

Gronkowski, 33, previously retired after the 2018 season, before returning for two more years with quarterback Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He announced his retirement Tuesday on social media, saying he would now be “back to chilling out” and “maybe sailing the seas.” This retirement feels different, though it hasn’t fully hit him yet.

“Yeah, it feels good, but I kind of had some obligations already that I was committed to before,” he told The Buffalo News Saturday.

Right before coming to Buffalo, Gronkowski was in Texas, visiting a military base and hosting a camp for about 150 kids in San Antonio. He flew from Texas to Buffalo, which he admitted had him a little tired during an otherwise solid workout.

“That’s what so good about working out: it balances you, gets you back to a level playing field after a long flight,” he said. “It was a good one, I just sweated all over the place and got my core feeling good.”

The morning workout at Fountain Plaza was tied to a party Saturday night to raise money Friends of Carly. The local nonprofit, founded in 2012, supports pediatric cancer patients and families in Buffalo.

“Then after that, it’s going to start being chilled out,” Gronkowski said. “But it’s actually been a busy four days, which has been pretty wild.”

Gronkowski’s agent, Drew Rosenhaus, has speculated that the four-time Super Bowl champion could have one more chapter.

“It would not surprise me if Tom Brady calls him during the season to come back and Rob answers the call,” Rosenhaus told ESPN’s Adam Schefter. “This is just my opinion, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Rob comes back during the season or next season.”

Gronkowski declined to comment on football. The future Hall of Famer was focused on other endeavors this weekend.

He has been involved with Friends of Carly for about seven years, his longtime friend John Ticco the founder. The annual summer fundraiser is a White Party, with monochromatic outfits and live music. Saturday’s party is the first for Friends of Carly since 2019, postponed twice from the pandemic.

“This one is special because it hasn’t gone on in two or three years now,” Gronkowski said. “Everyone is pumped up for it. My high school buddies, they’re are all pumped up.”

This year’s was held at KeyBank Center, and the signature cocktail was, of course, called “The Gronk Spike,” with Tito’s Vodka, sparkling water and two lemon slices, served on ice.

“It’s a great foundation, and also at the same time, it’s a great party, and (I) get to see all my friends and family from Buffalo,” Gronkowski said.

His dad was on hand in the morning as well, right next to the family-owned gym. The morning workout was a new addition to the schedule, and the hope is continue to run it each year, as other friends travel to Buffalo for the weekend.

“We wanted this to be something we raised a good amount of money, which we did here, for Friends of Carly, and start doing it maybe every year,” Dan Gronkowski said. “Get more fitness companies around and make it a big event. So I think that would be really cool for the community if we keep doing this.”

Highmark Western New York, Boxstar Express and Buffalo Hydration also sponsored the event.

There were four stations: upper body, lower body, core and boxing. Daniel Wrobel, a studio manager at NexGen Fitness, knew immediately which one he’d like to run.

“I was like, ‘I’ll take lower body,’ ” Wrobel said. “I don’t skip leg day. It’s probably my best area to train in as well.”

He wore socks with Gronkowski’s picture on them, as he hyped up participants going through lunges and squats.

“I got these socks as soon as I got the new job, kind of like little celebratory thing for myself,” he said. “It my new job, so I might as well celebrate with some socks. Who doesn’t like celebrating with some new socks?”

A majority of the participants were members of NexGen, with others coming in support of Friends of Carly. From the start of warmups, it was high-energy though light-hearted.

“Five, four, three – come on, Rob!” Wrobel shouted as he counted down. “Two, one!”

Another instructor tossed Wrobel a water bottle between rotations, and he wound up to fake a Gronk spike. At each of the four stations, they made sure to encourage everyone, from former professional athletes to others who joked about their dad shoes.

“It was great, everybody did phenomenal,” Wrobel said. “What I kept saying to everybody is: ‘Any pace is a good pace, as long as you’re moving.’ ”

Courtney Walsh, a trainer at Boxstar Express, ran a station with punching bags, with Electric Tower and M&T Bank over her shoulder. The Gronkowski brothers rolled through her station last.

“Keep it light, keep it fast!” Walsh shouted to the group.

By then everyone was sweating, with Saturday’s temperature eventually hitting 89 degrees later in the day.

“Did they stop?” Walsh asked, glancing at the other stations as time expired.

“One more round!” Gronkowski shouted, stepping to the next bag to his left. “One more round!”

It’s too early to fully say what the next stretch will look like for Gronkowski, but he does expect to be in Buffalo a bit more.

“My brother has four kids here, and they all play sports,” Gronkowski said. “I love watching their games, I get pumped up to go to their games.”

He still has friends here, and he has other ties as well. Through the Gronk Nation Youth Foundation, the family gives back to children’s hospitals, youth sports and other community-focused groups. They sponsor the Gronk Nation Baseball of Niagara Falls, helping with access to fields and equipment.

So there are more games in Gronkowski’s future, but of the little-league variety.

“He just wants to relax, actually go to some of his nephews’ and nieces’ games, be a part of that stuff more, which is awesome,” Dan Gronkowski said. “He’s looking forward to that and being in Buffalo brings that all back.”

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