LOCKPORT, N.Y. — Plenty of teenagers have replica jerseys of their favorite NFL player. Tawfiq Baity (ter-FEEK’ BAYE’-tee) had his hand-delivered by his football idol.
New England tight end Rob Gronkowski surprised the 17-year-old junior at Lockport High School outside Buffalo by walking into his history class Tuesday morning and handing him a New England jersey with Gronkowski’s name and No. 87.
Gronkowski is the teen’s favorite player on his favorite team. Gronkowski was accompanied by his brother, Dan, a tight end for the Cleveland Browns. The brothers grew up in the nearby Buffalo suburb of Williamsville.
Baity has cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair. He came to Gronkowski’s attention after appearing in a “get-well” video Lockport students produced for the player after he broke his arm late last season.
Earlier in the day during a radio interview, Rob Gronkowski brushed off the criticism he received after he was videotaped performing a wrestling move on a friend while his arm was in a cast, saying he would never do something he thought would put his health at risk.
“They’re my fans,” Gronkowski said. “They’re looking out for ... they’re big fans of the Patriots and they just want to see the team do well. I totally understand where the fans are coming [from], where they don’t want [me] to put myself in jeopardy of getting hurt. I totally understand that. I would never do that, put myself in jeopardy.
“To the max, I love going out there every week and performing to the best of my ability, and I love going out there playing. I understand where they are coming from. They just don’t want to see me hurt again. That’s totally understandable.”
Did the Patriots talk to him about it?