NFL Draft 2022: Gronk Beach embodies the ultimate NFL success story

At 32, Rob Gronkowski is the ultimate NFL Draft success story, with brands lining up to align themselves with him, and fans paying $100 a pop to party with him.

No one could have predicted how big Gronk would become when he was drafted 12 years ago. Picture: Bryan Steffy/Getty Images
No one could have predicted how big Gronk would become when he was drafted 12 years ago. Picture: Bryan Steffy/Getty Images

LAS VEGAS, Nev. — Rob Gronkowski jumped up from the stage and grabbed onto a metal structure supporting speakers. He hung there for a moment in front of a crowd of thousands, and people went wild, reaching their hands toward the future NFL Hall of Famer. Some held up larger-than-life cutouts of his head.

Gronkowski grinned, did several pull-ups and dropped back onto the stage, where he kept dancing to an electronic remix of Earth, Wind & Fire’s “September” that was blasting out across the sea of partygoers. Gronkowski’s four brothers, his father, Gordon, and his girlfriend, Camille Kostek — a model, actress and star in her own right — rotated on and off the stage to dance with Gronkowski, but the star of the show didn’t leave. It was close to 4 p.m., and he’d been out there since 2.

Rob Gronkowski didn’t disappoint at his Gronk Beach party in Las Vegas. Picture: Bryan Steffy/Getty Images
Rob Gronkowski didn’t disappoint at his Gronk Beach party in Las Vegas. Picture: Bryan Steffy/Getty Images

One woman wearing a bikini and a Tampa Bay jersey strained against the barriers at the front of the stage, screaming, “Gronk!” When the tight end looked toward the crowd in her direction, she yelled, ”Tell me you’re coming back to Tampa!”

Gronkowski didn’t seem to hear.

Tickets — at a price of around $50 for women and $100 for men because Vegas will always Vegas — earned the swimsuit-clad party people a day of dancing and drinking in the sun with The Chainsmokers, a perplexingly popular act that draws crowds to the Encore Beach Club on a weekend afternoon.

But this time, Gronkowski was the main attraction and a fitting one: About half a mile away, the next class of football players was being drafted across all 32 NFL teams.

If those kids are lucky, in 12 years, they could be the ones spraying a crowd with champagne.

The last time I was at Gronk Beach, the year was 2020, and the world would grind to a halt in about another month. Rain poured down on Miami Beach the day before the Chiefs won the Super Bowl, and revelers sought shelter under tents. But not Gronkowski — he, his brothers, his father and Kostek danced in the rain for five straight hours. Musical acts such as Diplo, Kaskade, Rick Ross, Flo Rida and Carnage took turns spinning beats and holding the mic, but Gronkowski and his family were the constant.

I could go into everything that has changed in the world since then, but I won’t because you already know it, and it’s all extremely depressing.

But in terms of Gronkowski-related NFL news, the amount of change since February 2020 is almost staggering. Back then, Tom Brady was still a Patriot, Gronkowski was still retired, and Tampa Bay hadn’t won a Super Bowl since 2001. Julian Edelman, a Patriot often mentioned along with Brady and Gronkowski, was still an active player.

Patriots head coach Bill Belichick showed up at Gronk Beach Part I in flip-flops and a gingham shirt to grit his teeth and smile in front of a Monster Energy-sponsored step-and-repeat. If his plan was to convince Gronkowski to come back to New England, it clearly failed because you know what happened next: Brady persuaded Gronkowski to come out of retirement to join him in Tampa, Edelman retired, and the Bucs won a championship a year later. Then Brady retired and un-retired.

As of now, Gronkowski is still on the Bucs’ roster. He has said he’s staying in shape but hasn’t made a decision about whether he’ll play.

Belichick wasn’t at Gronk Beach this year, but Edelman was. He posted up on stage behind his former teammate with the Gronkowski family, having a blast in a matching yellow terry cloth set. Edelman lives in Los Angeles now, where he recently took his 5-year-old daughter to kindergarten orientation. (And no, he does not have any plans to join the Bucs.)

Behind Edelman, Gronkowski’s agent, Drew Rosenhaus, a super-agent who has negotiated more than $7 billion worth of NFL contracts, was watching the festivities with a satisfied smile and crossed arms. He wore a gray T-shirt that said “Rosenhaus Sports” on it and a pair of jeans, which was definitely the most normal outfit at Gronk Beach.

I asked him if he ever imagined this when he signed Gronkowski 12 years ago.

“No,” he said immediately, shaking his head. ”No idea. It’s incredible.

“And he’s a genuinely good person.”

That’s what a lot of people in the football industry say about Gronkowski. There aren’t many superstar athletes who are as generous with their time as he is and outwardly care about their fans as much as he does. Not only was he on stage for almost the entire day, but he also took partygoers‘ phones from the crowd and snapped selfies before handing them back to their owners.

He signed anything fans tossed at him. Instead of showing up, shaking a few hands, taking a few pictures, waving at the crowd and doing his own thing, Gronkowski’s actions seemed to say, “You paid to be here to see me, so I will give you your money‘s worth.” His brothers might have chugged vodka from the bottle, but Gronkowski never appeared that wild while I was there.

And when the Chainsmokers took the stage, Gronkowski was right beside them. Soon after, I had to get off the stage because I find the Chainsmokers grating, and the structure was vibrating from the bass so much that it was giving me a headache. I had never been to a Vegas day party, and I can’t say it’s for me; 33 years old, it turns out, might be too old to attend Gronk Beach — though the LakersRussell Westbrook, also 33, strolled past me looking very calm, so maybe I’m just washed.

The reality of the Gronk Beach party made what Gronkowski was doing all the more impressive. He will also turn 33 in a few weeks and has suffered numerous injuries, yet still has the physical ability and stamina to jump, dance and fist-pump for hours. Not to mention the emotional stamina to respond to everyone who asks for a picture, an autograph or a bit of attention because they want to feel seen by a superstar.

The idea of being a millionaire hosting a party and making it look unbelievably fun might sound like a dream job, but it’s probably not as easy as it sounds. Neither is playing in the NFL for 12 years and winning multiple championships.

So it was poignant (or as poignant as a Vegas beach party can be) that Gronk Beach took place the weekend of the NFL Draft. Because Gronkowski is the Draft’s ultimate success story.

Gronk’s headshot from 2010. Picture: NFL via Getty Images
Gronk’s headshot from 2010. Picture: NFL via Getty Images

He is the best possible version of what each of this year’s prospects could become (and what many unfortunately won’t): a multi-, multi-millionaire who is so marketable that brands clamor to have their names attached to him and who can sell thousands of tickets at 100 bucks a pop to fans who want to say they partied with him.

Getting drafted is difficult, and so is succeeding in the league. Gronkowski did both while retaining his reputation of being a decent person (in a business where that isn’t all too common) and his image of being a lovable goof.

In doing so, he brought his family along for the ride and catapulted them to levels of fame they probably wouldn’t have reached alone.

Granted, Gronkowski was the one to earn the NFL contract, but his family plays an integral role in his success outside the league. His boisterous brothers are a huge part of his narrative. They bring so much fun energy to an event that even I — a person attending a Vegas day party alone, without consuming alcohol — laughed out loud a few times.

It was difficult not to have fun at Gronk Beach, and Gronkowski’s dad certainly did. He didn’t stop smiling all afternoon, jumping up and down with his sons in a pink shirt that said “PAPA GRONK” on the back (all the brothers had personalized shirts, too), multiple fake leis and a pair of very ‘90s-looking sunglasses.

“I couldn’t have predicted this,” he said while taking a rare break from the stage. ”But it’s been a great ride.”