New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski has announced that he has retired from the NFL after nine seasons and three Super Bowl wins.
The powerful Patriots star is one of, if not the best player at his position in NFL history, but has called time on his career aged just 29 after years of struggles with several injuries.
Gronkowski helped the Patriots to beat the LA Rams to win his third Super Bowl in Atlanta in February, but has been contemplating retirement all season, and has decided to end his career on a high.
"It all started at 20 years old on stage at the NFL draft when my dream came true, and now here I am about to turn 30 in a few months with a decision I feel is the biggest of my life so far. I will be retiring from the game of football today," Gronkowski wrote on Instagram.
"I am so grateful for the opportunity that Mr. Kraft and Coach Belichick gave to me when drafting my silliness in 2010.
"My life experiences over the last nine years have been amazing both on and off the field. The people I have met, the relationships I have built, the championships I have been a part of, I just want to thank the whole New England Patriots organization for every opportunity I have been giving and learning the great values of life that I can apply to mine.
"Thank you to all of Pats Nation around the world for the incredible support since I have been a part of this first-class organization.
"Thank you for everyone accepting who I am and the dedication I have put into my work to be the best player I could be."
Gronkowski made five Pro Bowls and ends his career with 521 receptions for 7,861 yards and 79 touchdowns in the regular season, and he was remarkably effective in the play-offs when adding 81 catches for 1,163 yards and 12 touchdowns in 16 post-season games.
His combination with Patriots quarterback Tom Brady was one of the most effective in the game, and at his best he was almost unplayable with a unique blend of size, speed and hands making him the perfect pass-catching tight end.
That made him a target for opposing defences though, and with his position calling for tough catches to be made in traffic, he suffered some huge hits and some big injuries as a result.
Back, arm, shoulder and knee injuries have all caused him to miss games over the last few seasons, and as it became harder to recover he has decided to not risk any further punishment.
Gronkowski will be a sure-fire first round entrance into the Hall of Fame and leaves huge hole for the Patriots to fill for the coming season.