Rookie tight end Pat Freiermuth is trying to shake the “Baby Gronk” nickname. It may be a term of endearment, comparing him to one of the best TEs of this era, but Freiermuth has made it clear he isn’t a fan of the moniker.
Speaking with reporters virtually on Day One of rookie minicamp, Freiermuth said he’s not a fan of the label and explained its origins.
“I guess it came about because I’m from that area,” he told reporters via the Trib’s Chris Adamski. “Wore 87. Obviously, Gronk played for the Patriots for a long time. I hate it. I think it’s pretty annoying to be called Baby Gronk. I’m trying to get away from that nickname.”
Freiermuth is from Massachusetts and played high school ball during some of Rob Gronkowski’s prime years with the Patriots.
His stellar play at Penn State only reinforced the idea. He burst on scene as a true freshman, catching just 26 passes but finding the end zone a whopping eight times in 2018. His usage only increased for his sophomore year, ending 2019 with 43 receptions for 507 yards and another seven trips to the end zone.
Though he may not be a fan of the nickname, it’s one that shows the well-roundedness of his game. Gronkowski is known for making big plays downfield but is also one of the best blocking tight ends in the NFL in the run game or pass protection. Freiermuth isn’t the blocker Gronkowski is, at least not yet, but was considered one of the more traditional and better in-line tight ends that are becoming more and more difficult to find in the college game.
Freiermuth recently discussed his old-school play that stem from his high school roots.
“In high school, I was asked to block. I was asked to be in-line. I was asked to hit the blocking sled every single day,” he said in a recent interview. “They made me block. They didn’t split me out all the time. They made me go in there and put my hand in the dirt and be physical at the line of scrimmage.”
We’ll see if he can shake the nickname in the NFL. But if it sticks, it probably means Freiermuth is having an excellent pro career. The Steelers are certainly banking on it.