What’s in a name? Everything if that name is Rob.
Not only is it what all of Gronk’s close circle call him, the name of his best friend/minder (we’re looking at you, Robbie Goon!), but also the name of his biggest and most well-deserving fan.
Meet Robbie Barnicoat, a 12-year-old boy from Naples, Florida, who is suffering from severe epilepsy syndrome used the strength of Number 87 to battle unbelievable odds.
In 2015, when Robbie woke up from a medically-induced coma after having seizures for three straight weeks the first thing he saw was Gronk’s Patriots jersey hung up in his hospital room (nice move, mom and dad!)
And the first word he said when he opened his eyes? “Eight.” God, we love this kid!
Gronk got wind of Robbie’s inspiring story and sent him a personal video before he had another brain surgery last summer encouraging him to stay strong. No stranger to surgeries, the big fella was blown away by the little kid’s endurance as Robbie learned how to do his favorite things again, from eating spaghetti to playing baseball.
Big and little Rob’s special relationship was captured in an emotional ESPN story captured by Sarah Spain that aired on Sunday ahead of the AFC Championship victory.
"It was truly a touching story that inspired me, and no one even believed where he could be right now," Gronk told ESPN. "Just saying how helpful my jersey was just hanging in there got him through it, it's just unbelievable."
We challenge you to watch ESPN's video without getting goose bumps or a tear in your eye, as Robbie's doctor explains that 30 percent of cases such as his lead to death. "It was bad, they didn't think he was going to pull through it," his mother, Eileen Barnicoat said.
Robbie told Sarah that he'd been a Patriots fan his whole life, and when asked who his favorite player is he replied: "Gronk." Er, duh!
When the Miami Dolphins visited Gillette Stadium on Nov. 26, Robbie was along for the ride as a very special guest and got the game day experience worthy of a VIP.
The only thing better than getting a front row seat to watching the Pats stomp the Dolphins 35-17 … was getting a piggyback ride from Gronk across the field after the game!
Before game time, Robbie got to attend the Gronkowski family tailgate -- fortunately he didn't slam beers with Gordie Jr., but he did get a lot of big hugs and was escorted into to the stadium by him and Papa Gronk. After #87 scored two touchdowns, Robbie B. met Robbie G. on the field -- where he told him off for not getting three touchdowns! (We LOVE this kid's sass).
A few chest bumps later and Robbie got to ride the Gronkowski choo-choo train around the empty stadium, which looked very similar to a Brandin Cooks touchdown celebration from earlier in the day.
See some of Sarah Spain's photos from their epic day below, and watch the whole video above.