TAMPA — We know this much about new Bucs tight end Rob Gronkowki: He knows how to deliver good news.
Wearing a Bucs shirt and sunglasses that he might have borrowed from one of his professional wrestling buddies, Gronkowski announced emphatically on social media Tuesday that he was helping a local high school that lost nearly all of its football equipment in a fire last month.
Gronkowski said he was teaming with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Foundation to replace the sports equipment storage shed at Blake High School that burned down on May 16 and will fill it with new equipment.
“Hey everyone ... Last week, we heard about an unfortunate incident in Tampa where a fire burned down a high school storage shed full of their team’s football equipment,” Gronkowki announced in a video posted to the Bucs’ Twitter account.
“Sadly, they lost it all. Well, my Gronk Nation Youth Foundation, and my new team, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, are all about helping youth reach their full potential. So we’re going to do just that. To the Blake High School Yellow Jackets, you’re getting a brand new storage unit and all new football equipment to replace everything that was lost.”
“Keep working hard this summer, stay active and stay healthy," Gronkowski continued, “and my new teammates and I are looking forward to seeing you soon.”
It’s the first known local community contribution Gronkowski has made since signing with the Bucs in April.
The Gronk Nation Youth Foundation, which provides grants to sports programs and non-profit organizations to help serve and benefit children with an emphasis on health, fitness and education, and the Bucs reached out to Hillsborough County Public Schools separately to see how they could help.
Ultimately, they decided to team up to replace all of the school’s lost items and build a new storage unit.
Hillsborough County athletic director Lanness Robinson said the district had a plan to replace the school’s lost equipment. But the donation allows the county to use the allotted money elsewhere for other purposes — especially important with budget cuts expected for the upcoming school year in the wake of the pandemic.
“They weren’t going to go without,” Robinson said. “But budgets are tight, so that was obviously something like, ‘Oh, thank you,’" Robinson said. “That frees up those dollars to be used in other ways. With budgets being tight, it turns into a situation where every dollar counts.”
The fire destroyed the storage unit and nearly all of the team’s football equipment, including practice gear, workout equipment, pads, pop-up dummies, field markers, pylons, chains and a custom stencil donated by the booster club to mark the school’s logo on the middle of the football field.
Damages were estimated at $11,000.
A juvenile who admitted to setting the fire was arrested last week and charged with two counts of second-degree arson and one count of burglary, according to Tampa Fire-Rescue.
A Go Fund Me account not affiliated with Hillsborough County Public Schools also raised more than $2,000 to help replace what was lost in the fire. Robinson said “there were other people who stood up and offered (to help) as well."
Gronkowski and the team hope to deliver the equipment to the school in person once it arrives.
Contact Eduardo A. Encina at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @EddieInTheYard.