GRONK: A Frugal Party Animal

Rob Gronkowski (“Gronkowski” or “Gronk”), commonly referred to as “The Gronk,” or “Gronk,” was drafted by the New England Patriots in the 2010 National Football League (“NFL”) Draft, as the forty-second (42nd) pick overall in round two. He played his college ball at the University of Arizona and has become one of the most dominant tight ends in all of the NFL.

GronkowskiAt six foot six and two hundred sixty-five pounds, Gronk is an imposing player who has already accumulated personal records. In 2011, during his second NFL season, he set a single season NFL record for touchdowns by a tight end, as well as a single season record for receiving yards. Gronk has been selected three times to the NFL Pro Bowl, two times first team – All Pro, AP Comeback Player of the Year, and was part of the 2015 New England Patriots’ Super Bowl Championship (XLIX) team.

On July 25, 2010, Gronk signed a four-year contract worth $4.4 million with a $1.76 million signing bonus. On June 8, 2012, Gronk signed a six-year, $54 million contract extension—the largest ever for an NFL tight end. The contract included an $8 million signing bonus, but essentially left the provisions of his 2012-2013 rookie executed contract intact. What follows are his estimated career earnings, along with NFL contract details with respect to the 2012 contract extension:

Career Estimated Earnings:[1]

2010                $2,080,000

2011                $1,280,000

2012                $8,570,000

2013                $660,000

2014                $3,750,000

Total for first 5 seasons           $16,340,000

2015                $15,000,000

2016                $3,000,000

2017                $5,000,000

2018                $9,000,000

2019                $10,000,000

Total                $58,340,000

Contract Details:[2]

Total Value: $54,000,000 (avg. $9,000,000/year; $13,170,000 fully guaranteed)

3rd highest of 187 TE contracts

Year Base Salary (Guaranteed) Bonuses Cap Number
Prorated Roster Workout Other
2012 $540,000 $2,090,000 $0 $30,000 $0 $2,660,000
2013 $630,000 $2,090,000 $0 $30,000 $0 $2,750,000
2014 $3,750,000 $3,750,000 $1,650,000 $0 $0 $0 $5,400,000
2015 $4,750,000 $5,000,000 $3,650,000 $0 $250,000 $0 $8,650,000
2016 $2,250,000 $3,650,000 $500,000 $250,000 $0 $6,650,000
2017 $4,250,000 $2,000,000 $500,000 $250,000 $0 $7,000,000
2018 $8,000,000 $2,000,000 $750,000 $250,000 $0 $11,000,000
2019 $9,000,000 $2,000,000 $750,000 $250,000 $0 $12,000,000

Contract Notes:[3]

  • Signing Bonus: $8 million
  • $13.17 million guaranteed (Signing Bonus + 2012-14 salaries)
  • $5 million guaranteed for injury
  • 2012 OATSB: $250,000
  • 2012-13 Workout Bonus: $30,000
  • 2015-19 Workout Bonus $250,000
  • 2016 Option Bonus: $10 million/5 years
  • 2016-17 Roster Bonus: $500,000
  • 2018-18 Roster Bonus: $750,000

Gronskoski 3Gronkowski may be one of the best tight ends in the NFL, but he is also the epitome of a party animal. Gronkowski is “the one athlete that can claim the title to the most superior social life in all of sports.”[4]

Rob Gronkowski is the definition of a one-man wrecking crew for all things involving a party—and he doesn’t even need the ladies’ presence most of the time! The guy absolutely crushes the term ‘off-season party mode,’ taking things to a completely new level. One beer bong and lady at a time, Rob Gronkowski is changing the game for high profile celebrities with the social lives to match their statuses.[5]

GronkowskiThey call it “off-season antics,” off-season antics that no other NFL player is involved in. Some of those antics include:

  • “the infamous Twit-Pic with a porn star;”[6]
  • riding around in his Armor SuperDrink Party Bus;[7]
  • posing nude for the ESPN Body issue;[8]
  • nearly breaking his surgically repaired arm for a third time while partying;[9]
  • dancing shirtless at a party after the Patriots Super Bowl XLVI loss to the Giants;[10]
  • Appearances at the Kentucky Derby,[11] Ultra Music Festival,[12] and numerous media appearances and cameos in movies such as “Entourage” and “You Can’t Have It;” and
  • Judged a bikini contest at the Windjammer on the Isle of Palms, SC.[13]

Gronk characterizes himself as a “baller,”[14] although even with all the antics and craziness, Gronk may be one of the smartest and most frugal financial planners off field. In his new autobiography, scheduled for release on July 14, 2015 and authored by agent Jason Rosenhaus, It’s Good to be Gronk, Gronk reveals his surprisingly thrifty spending habits:

“To this day, I still haven’t touched one dime of my signing bonus or NFL contract money. I live off my marketing money and haven’t blown it on any big-money expensive cars, expensive jewelry or tattoos and still wear my favorite pair of jeans from high school…I don’t hurt anyone (except Gord with the occasional kick to the groin), I don’t do drugs, I don’t drive drunk, I don’t break the law…I’m a 23 year-old guy just looking to have a fun time.”[15]

In essence then, Gronk claims that he has not spent a dollar of his NFL salary or signing bonus. He claims in the alternative that he lives off his endorsement deals. “He’s a great money manager, too, and his philosophy of ‘big pockets and short fingers’ should serve as a lesson for the countless NFL stars who believe that ‘spend now and worry about it later’ is the right way to live.”[16]

Gronk’s endorsements, for which he claims to live off of, include:

  • In March 2012, Gronkowski signed a two-year deal with Dunkin’ Donuts to endorse their products and appear in radio and television spots.[17] In conjunction with this endorsement, Gronk was part of a rap music video with Boston Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz for iced coffee.[18]
  • In August 2012, Gronkowski became an investor and sponsor of the premium sports drink, BodyArmor SuperDrink.[19]
  • In September 2012, PLB Sports produced a frosted corn flakes cereal named Gronk Flakes that were sold in New England at Stop & Shop supermarkets. Gronk Flakes are made by the same company that produced Flutie Flakes. A portion of proceeds will benefit the Gronk Nation Youth Foundation.[20]
  • In January 2015, Gronkowski teamed up with Opendorse to promote a Zynga mobile application called “NFL Showdown: Football Manager.”[21]

What follows are Gronk’s estimated earnings from endorsements:[22]

Gronk Flakes                           $1,250,000

Flutie Flakes                            $937,500

Stop & Shop                           $857,143

BodyArmor SuperDrink         $769,231

Dunkin Donuts                       $652,174

Total                                        $4,466,048

The financial ills and bankruptcies of professional football players has been well documented. According to a joint study conducted by researchers from three separate universities (h/t CNBC), “Nearly 16 percent of NFL players drafted between 1996 and 2003 declared bankruptcy within 12 years of retirement.” That translates to roughly one in every six players, meaning that on any given 53-man roster, perhaps as many as nine of those players (or maybe even more) wound up declaring bankruptcy not all that long after their playing days were finished.[23]

In 2012, published from ESPN”s “Broke” documentary a list of athletes who filed for bankruptcy, a list that featured, among a slew of others, the likes of Lenny Dykstra, Warren Sapp, Sheryl Swoopes, Mike Tyson, Michael Vick, and Antoine Walker. Many of these athletes had earned tens of millions of dollars during their careers, but the fact that they wound up filing for bankruptcy anyway shows that the “buy now, worry later” attitude extends far beyond just the NFL.[24]

While Gronk certainly hasn’t taken the pathway of Warren Sapp or Michael Vick, he is at the absolute other end of the spectrum, which has to be admired because when that short career is over, and it is short, Gronk basically has a financial future in place. And while it probably won’t be the case, not having to work in the future, Gronk is, and will be, financially secure. Somewhere in between the bankruptcy and frugality is a middle ground that makes financial sense for professional athletes, which should include:

  1. Experienced, bonded, and trusted financial advisors,
  2. Conservative investments,
  3. Cash is king,
  4. Limited withdrawals,
  5. No powers of attorney,
  6. Make it last,
  7. It’s what’s left after taxes that counts,
  8. Plan for retirement,
  9. Avoid scams, hangers on, and family demands, and
  10. Put a trustee between your money and potential takers.

Every NFL player should read George E. Koonce, Jr.’s book “Is There Life After Football? Surviving the NFL.”


Lori Shaw is currently a 3L at Marquette University Law School where she is focusing on Intellectual Property and Sports Law. Shaw is also the Managing Editor for the Marquette Intellectual Property Law Review and is a member of the Alternative Dispute Resolution Society and Labor and Employment Law Society at Marquette. Prior to coming to Marquette Law, Shaw double-majored in History and Political Science, with a Psychology minor, at Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana.