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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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Rob Gronkowski waited a long time to show off his stuff when it came to spiking. (AP)

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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