New Tampa Bay Buccaneers tight end Rob Gronkowski has replaced a high school football equipment shed and all of its contents after being lost in a fire. The Gronk Nation Youth Foundation and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Foundation have teamed up to help Blake High School, Tampa replace every single item of equipment.
On May 16 Blake High School’s football program saw all of its equipment, practice dummies and other game day necessities lost in a fire that blazed for over half an hour before being put out by the local firefighting department. A juvenile has since been arrested and charged with two counts of second-degree arson and one count of burglary following a confession to starting the fire. Fortunately, the rest of the school escaped unscathed after the late-night blaze, but with a modest budget and training to resume soon, football staff and players were left reeling.
After learning of the incident, Rob Gronkowski set straight to work to find out what he could do to help the school and its football program. The former New England Patriot tight end and three-time Super Bowl winner teamed up with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Foundation to replace the school’s football storage unit as well as each and every piece of equipment that was lost.
“Hey Blake High School – we heard about the fire that destroyed your storage shed full of football equipment. Guess what?? The Gronk Nation Youth Foundation and the Tampa Bay Bucs Foundation are replacing it all! Keep working hard… I wanna see what you got! Go Yellow Jackets and Go Bucs!” Gronkowski posted on Instagram, along with a video message to the school and Bucs fans.
“Last week, we heard about an unfortunate incident in Tampa where a fire burned down a high school storage shed full of their team’s football equipment,” the 31-year-old continued in the video.
“Sadly, they lost it all. Well, my Gronk Nation Youth Foundation, and my new team, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, are all about helping youth reach their full potential. So we’re going to do just that. To the Blake High School Yellow Jackets, you’re getting a brand new storage unit and all new football equipment to replace everything that was lost!
“Keep working hard this summer, stay active and stay healthy and my new teammates and I are looking forward to seeing you soon.”
Gronkowski’s charity, The Gronk Nation Youth Foundation, provides grants to non-profit organizations and sports programs in order to help serve and benefit children in regard to their health, fitness and education. The Gronkowski brothers, who have all played professional sports, also regularly appear at the events of non-profit organizations to boost awareness and raise support.
The Gronk Nation Youth Foundation and the Buccaneers’ foundation both independently reached out to Hillsborough County Public Schools to see if and how they could help with the situation. The foundations then decided to work together to replace the equipment lost in the fire, as well as setting up a future meeting between the Bucs and Blake High School players.
“I was kind of in shock when I heard,” the school’s head football coach Duane Thomas told the Tampa Bay Times following the fire. “We were talking about possibly July 15 to start practicing again. That equipment is essential.”
“A lot of that stuff can’t just be replaced,” said Thomas, who has coached at Blake for 14 years in various roles.
A homemade stencil that was used to replicate Blake’s yellow jacket logo in the centre of the football on matchdays was lost in the fire, as well as a number of personal memorabilia items, many of which were made by students at the school.
“It all could have cost more than $15,000 easily,” said junior varsity head coach Michael Castellana. “The budgets are so tight. The money won’t be there (in the yearly budget) to replace everything, let alone 25 percent of it.”
After nine successful years with the New England Patriots, Gronkowski retired from football following his third Super Bowl victory at the end of the 2018 season. Many expected the much-loved tight end to announce a return to pro football sooner rather than later, but it was not until former teammate Tom Brady announced his move to Tampa before Gronkowski seriously considered a return to the league.
“I was getting opportunities throughout my retirement to come back, which is special. But I’ve always said, I won’t come back unless I’m feeling good, healthy and ready to go. This is that time,” Gronkowski said in a virtual press conference held after the announcement.
“Last year, I wasn’t ready, my body 100% needed a rest; I’d been playing football for 15 years straight and I lost my fire. The last few weeks, though, it’s really started to build back up.
My body has started to feel real good and my desire to play football has come back so I knew that by the time the season rolls around again, I would want to be back out there. The passion has returned and the past couple of weeks I’ve thought I wanted to get back, before it gets too late.”