Rob "Gronk" Gronkowski, tight end for the New England Patriots, is the cover athlete for Madden '17, EA Sports announced Thursday on Sportscenter. He's both the first tight end and the first Patriots player to ever be on the cover.
The cover was decided by EA Sports after five years of fan votes for cover athletes. Gronk follows Odell Beckham Jr., Richard Sherman, and Barry Sanders (for the anniversary edition) in the last three years.
The player, known for his "Gronk Spike," his red zone presence, and his goofy off-the-field party persona, amassed 72 receptions for over 1100 yards and 11 touchdowns in the 2015-2016 season, which saw the Patriots return to the AFC conference championships, where they lost to the Denver Broncos (who went on to win the Super Bowl in dominant fashion).
The question now is whether he'll be a victim to the "Madden Curse," wherein several players have fallen to injury or greatly reduced output in the following season, or if he'll buck the trend like Calvin Johnson, the 2013 cover athlete that set the NFL record for yards in a season during his cover year.