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An anatomy of a spike: How Rob Gronkowski came to deliver his signature celebration

02.02.12 at 11:54 pm ET
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INDIANAPOLIS — It doesn’t classify as Grade A Super Bowl trash talk, but Ahmad Bradshaw has issued something of a challenge.

“I like Gronk,” the Giants running back told WEEI.com Thursday, “but I think I can beat him out.”

Before thoughts of guaranteed victories, or even touchdown predictions, enter into the conversation, understand what Bradshaw was referring to — spiking a football.

While the declaration might not seem like much, when you consider how Rob Gronkowski’s execution of celebrating each touchdown is revered around the NFL, Bradshaw’s claim qualifies as a big deal. As teammate Ryan Mallett explains it, “When Gronk spikes, the ground shakes. You can feel it from the sidelines. It’s nuts. I’ve never seen a human being do that.”

Adds Patriots offensive lineman Logan Mankins, “You see a lot of guys spike the ball, and then you see Rob spike it and it’€™s totally different. I think he hit a cameraman recently.”

When listening to Gronkowski explain how the practice of spiking the ball evolved, it’s understandable that such exuberance is behind each scoring punctuation.

“It started when I got to the NFL,” Gronkowski explained. “I always wanted to do it in a game but you couldn’t do it in high school or college because of the rules, so I finally got to do it in the NFL. It felt good. It was pretty cool.”

That first celebration came on Aug. 26, 2010, when the then-rookie tight end hauled in a 14-yard touchdown pass from Tom Brady with 1:52 left in the second quarter of a preseason game against the Rams. Gronkowski broke free of his euphoric teammates and let fly his first-ever spike.

“I just knew,” Gronkowski said. “When I finally had a chance to do it, I was doing it. I wasn’t thinking twice.”

Of course, since then the tight end has let loose with approximately 30 spikes, perfecting his craft with each display of force.

“Sometimes I’€™m glad I’€™m a lineman, way behind the play. It’€™s funny when you see him spike it, you see the referee or [Wes] Welker duck away. It’€™s pretty amazing the way he does it,” Mankins said. “He was good out of the gate, but he’€™s gotten better the way guys duck for cover when he’€™s getting ready to do it.”

“I would say so,” said Gronkowski when asked if he had improved. “I know how to tilt a ball to make it go in a direction.”

While it’s debatable if Gronkowski has any peers in the NFL when it comes to spiking, the 22-year-old said he has the market cornered when it comes to competing against those who saw the first wave of spikes — his brothers.

“That wouldn’t be a challenge,” he said. “I would destroy them.”

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