Derek Watt, Glenn Gronkowski look to make names for themselves in the NFL

INDIANAPOLIS -- When the littlest Gronkowski arrived at the NFL scouting combine, he descended into a cyclone of interest about the Gronk Cruise. It was a party cruise several members of his family and 700 fans attended last weekend, it was wild, it was crazy, it was so ... Gronk. Even team personnel wanted to hear fun stories about the antics from the boat.

"I've actually been asked about the cruise probably 50 times since I've been here so far," said Glenn Gronkowski, who actually wasn't on it.

Seventeen hundred miles away, at a training facility in Phoenix, J.J. Watt's little brother worked to ready himself for the pre-draft process. He woke up around 8 a.m. for a gritty nine-hour day of working on his body as if that were his job. There he also piqued interest with his famous last name.

"As soon as people hear the name, [they say], 'Are you J.J. Watt's brother?'" Derek Watt said.

Both Glenn and Derek are used to those kind of questions by now.

Their brothers have turned their last names into brands, and now both younger brothers are seeking their own path.

"I think the important thing for them -- and the teams will recognize this -- is they have to be what they are and not who their brothers are," said Phil Savage, the executive director of the Senior Bowl and a former NFL general manager. "The teams will give them a fair shot. One of the attitudes in scouting is you never grade schools or programs or families. You grade each individual. … If there’s sort of a balanced approach to all of this they can definitely make the league and have careers."

Glenn was only 16 years old when his brother Dan first played in the NFL. He was 18 when his brother Rob made his first Pro Bowl as the New England Patriots tight end, on his way to becoming the league's best tight end. Derek was also a teenager when his brother J.J. became a superstar at Wisconsin, and only 20 when J.J. won his first of three NFL Defensive Player of the Year awards.

The Watts were three brothers growing up in Pewaukee, Wisconsin, playing in the backyard, fighting in the backyard, then growing up to admire each other, respect each other and tease J.J. about what a celebrity he's become. All three went to Wisconsin, and the youngest, T.J. Watt, is the only one who remains.

As Derek enters the draft, comparisons to J.J. are inevitable.

"The one nice thing is we don't play the same position," Derek Watt said. "In that sense you can't really compare us."

In J.J., Derek saw a blueprint first hand for how to make the most of your talents.

Glenn Gronkowski had that, too, with more volume than Derek did.

The Gronkowski brothers were five boys with an age range of 10 years, and Glenn was still a kid when his brothers started embarking on college football careers.

Three of those brothers have NFL experience, Chris, Dan and Rob. Rob has become the clan's superstar -- the Patriots' starting tight end is one of the NFL's best players, perhaps as well known for his party antics as for his mastery of the game.

"He's crazy, obviously, he likes to have fun," Glenn said. "I'm probably not as much fun as him. That's kind of hard to beat. I think it definitely comes with the family, though."

Teams have been asking about his personality and his party habits this week, but that difference in personality is something teams will learn as they study Glenn. It's what Dana Dimel, Kansas State's co-offensive coordinator, learned through coaching three Gronkowski brothers in college, including Rob and Glenn. In Glenn, he saw a very serious and studious person.

Dimel thinks the comparison to Rob will help.

"I think when they work him out they’re going to see how well he catches the ball, how smooth he runs his routes," Dimel said. "They’ll see that trait that Rob possesses and I think it’ll help him. They’ll like his personality. He’s a serious guy, takes care of business."

While Glenn has played some tight end and fullback, Derek is a more traditional fullback. And as the pair of fullbacks, they'll face uphill climbs both because many teams no longer employ fullbacks, and due to the strength of the class.

The class is so strong that Derek Watt didn't get a combine invitation. When that happened, J.J. quickly told his younger brother, "That doesn't mean anything."

"Obviously it hurts not getting an invite to such a big event like that, but you take it in a stride and take it somewhat personal to be honest," Derek said. "And do everything you can to prove them wrong."

A little outside doubt tends to motivate members of the Watt family. After all, J.J. was not highly regarded coming out of high school, and had to walk on to Wisconsin long before turning into the best defensive player in the NFL -- and he still talks about that.

To counter the lesser-used nature of fullback they've both tried to show off their versatility, and willingness to do anything asked of them as they've attended all-star evaluation games this winter.

Glenn played H-back, fullback, tight end and slot receiver while at the Senior Bowl.

"I think I can be very versatile, very dynamic," he said.

Glenn is having the chance to show that this week at the combine in Indianapolis.

Derek is biding his time. His Pro Day is March 9.

In the meantime, he's in Phoenix at a training facility called Exos. He wakes up around 8 a.m. every day, goes through hours of position work, lifting, endurance training and recovery. He works to improve day by day, determined that when he gets his opportunity, he'll prove he belongs.

"I'm willing to play wherever it takes," Derek Watt said. "I'm trying to show them I can do some things too and I can make a name for myself. Show the training and the hard work I've put in."