It was Father's Day, and the Gronkowski boys were slinking into the media center at the Chicagoland Speedway. Well, three of them were. The ones who aren't known simply as Gronk. Rob and father, Gordon Sr., were on stage as grand marshals of that weekend's NASCAR event, promoting the family's youth fitness foundation.
The caboose of the tardy trio was Glenn, the littlest brother of the biggest group of bros (or brahs) you'll ever see -- and the only one of the quintet not to play in professional sports ... yet.
"Oh, here they are," Gordon said, now rolling his eyes and pointing at his boys. "Get up here. Let's go! Goose, c'mon!"
Goose is the nickname of Glenn Gronkowski, starting fullback and road plower for the run-happy Kansas State Wildcats. He's the youngest of the five Gronk brothers, trailing his All-Pro, ESPY-winning, Super Bowl-ring-wearing bro, Rob, by 4 years, and the eldest, former minor league baseball player Gordie Jr., by a decade.
At times, he's been painted as the recluse of the posse, the last Gronk left in the house after the others had left for greener turfs, including Rob, who moved from Amherst, New York, with his dad for better high school football in Pennsylvania.
Rob pointed to his kid brother as he slid into his seat and behind a microphone. "OK, Glenn, you're up. It's Father's Day. Talk about it. Go ..."
Goose has been called the brains of the bunch. That is accurate. He regularly posts straight A's, as any of his 10,000 Twitter followers already know from his post-semester updates. He has been predicted as the fourth of the five to play in the NFL, following Dan, who was taken in the seventh round by the Detroit Lions in '09, Rob, who was taken in the second round by the New England Patriots in '10 and Chris, who signed as a free agent with the Denver Broncos the same year. That is also accurate. Mel Kiper Jr. already has Glenn as the top underclassman fullback in the nation. Says Kiper: "He hasn't caught many passes, but he does offer good length and reliable hands, so I wouldn't be surprised to see him get a few more throws during the next two seasons."
But can a Gronkowski truly be shy, a recluse, the little brother rooted out of the trough by the big'uns? Wrong.
"Hey, you know what?!" Glenn suddenly blurted out over the speaker in the racetrack media room, leaning in for emphasis. "Growing up, it was hard. Because I was the youngest. I had the smallest piece..."
This is when the howling laughter and beating of the table from his family started, countering the shocked silence from the writers in the room who'd expected the college kid to say little if anything.
"But you know what? I FOUGHT THROUGH IT! My dad was there the whole way. And he got me a scholarship to K-STATE!"
Now he had the room, and he knew it.
"ARIZONA WOULD NOT OFFER ME! EVEN THOUGH MY TWO BROTHERS WENT THERE AND KILLED IT! But you know what?..."
A look at Dad. A grin.
"I went to K-State. And I'm BIG ...12 ... FIRST ... TEAM. NOW ... WHAT YOU GOTTA SAY ABOUT THAT?!"
Another look at Dad. A look at Rob. A wink.
"And I have a 4.0 ... and I'm also first-team All-Academic...THANKS, DAD!"
Finally, Rob found a chance to interject. "Glenn, you are unbelievable."
What's unbelievable is that a guy can be a preseason all-conference selection in the offense-obsessed Big 12 after having carried the football exactly five times in two seasons. Though, in fairness, he also added 10 catches for four touchdowns, including a classic tight-end-esque, Gronk-style 62-yarder at Oklahoma -- his only touchdown of 2014.
What's unbelievable is that the 6-foot-3, 245-pounder has already received public praise from his father as "probably the best pure athlete to come out of our house." This from a dad who blocked for Joe Morris at Syracuse and whose grandfather was an Olympic cyclist. And this from a house in Amherst, New York, just outside Buffalo, that wasn't actually a house at all. It was a gym, a specially built basement packed with weight equipment and trophy cases. Upstairs was a kitchen lined with refrigerators. Mom, Diane, worked that kitchen like an assembly line at Golden Corral and wheeled the family van like it was a city bus.
"Glenn never knew anything but to work hard because that's what he grew up watching," she recalls now. "To all of the boys it was fun. The motivation was never, 'Oh, we're going to get in trouble if we don't do this or that'; it was wanting to get better. They all became great athletes. They all got great grades. Glenn was always the youngest, but he also benefited from seeing how his brothers went about their work. His brothers were always his like his coaches. And they have always been his biggest fans."
There is always at least one other Gronk in Manhattan, Kansas, on autumn Saturdays. Diane sees Wildcats games first and NFL games second. Rob goes viral whenever he jets to K-State, most notably the 2013 spring scrimmage, when he was seen running through town wearing a pink security T-shirt, chugging beers at frat parties and nearly chest-bumping his way through a steel barrier as his little bro took the field.
"That's just my family being my family," Glenn admits, chuckling at the mention of other family chest-bump moments, like the one on the red carpet and in the theater at the 2015 ESPYS, and on a summer edition of "Family Feud," during which he watched from the audience. "We don't get to all be together very much, maybe once or twice a year. So when we do, at the ESPYS or at K-State, or even at a NASCAR race, it kind of blows up."
And at that Father's Day news conference at the Chicagoland Speedway, it was obvious that no one enjoyed Goose's sudden seizing of the spotlight more than his big brothers.
A laughing Rob admitted to the media corps that Glenn had developed a wrestling hold that could mercilessly pin him. "It's called The Treatment. And it dominates me. It hurts and it tickles, and I can't move all at the same time."
A laughing Gordie Sr., joked, "One day we'll be back here when Goose is the grand marshal of one of these races."
A laughing Dan said, "We all have on our K-State purple under our official clothes."
But it was Goose who got the last laugh. When a NASCAR writer asked whether his favorite NFL team, the Philadelphia Eagles, would be smart to take the youngest Gronkowski at the end of 2016's first round, Glenn suddenly wore a serious look.
"You won't be able to draft me at the end of the first round. Because I'll already be taken."
As his brothers slapped him on the back, Goose's smile returned. "Just kidding. If I'm there, yeah, definitely take me."