Rob Gronkowski, a three-time Super Bowl champion with the New England Patriots, announced via Instagram on Sunday that he was retiring from the NFL after nine seasons.

The tight end appeared in five Pro Bowls since being drafted in the second round in 2010. His 80 touchdowns (79 receiving, one rushing) in the regular season were the eight most among active players.

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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. 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 9 years have been amazing both on and off the field. The people I have meet, the relationships I have built, the championships I have been apart 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 apart of this 1st 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. But now its time to move forward and move forward with a big smile knowing that the New England Patriots Organization, Pats Nation, and all my fans will be truly a big part of my heart for rest of my life. It was truly an incredible honor to play for such a great established organization and able to come in to continue and contribute to keep building success. To all my current and past teammates, thank you for making each team every year special to be apart of. I will truly miss you guys. Cheers to all who have been part of this journey, cheers to the past for the incredible memories, and a HUGE cheers to the uncertain of whats next.

A post shared by Rob Gronkowski (@gronk) on

“I am so grateful for the opportunity that Mr. Kraft and Coach Belichick gave to me when drafting my silliness in 2010,” Gronkowski wrote in his Instagram post. “My life experiences over the last 9 years have been amazing both on and off the field. The people I have meet, the relationships I have built, the championships I have been apart 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.”

Gronkowski, 29, called it “an incredible honor to play for such a great established organization,” and thanked his teammates and fans for their support.

“Cheers to all who have been part of this journey, cheers to the past for the incredible memories, and a HUGE cheers to the uncertain of whats next," he wrote.

Prior to the Patriots’ Super Bowl LIII win over the Rams, rumors swirled that Gronkowski was mulling retirement. It was the second offsesason in as many years that the topic came up -- after the Patriots lost to the Eagles in the Super Bowl in February 2018, he said he was “definitely going to look at my future, for sure.

Patriots head coach Bill Belichick said in a statement that it was “a privilege and a pleasure” to coach Gronkowski.

“Rob was a major reason why we won games and championships,” he said. “His elite combination of size, skill, intelligence, toughness and ability to perform in pressure situations set him apart.”

Belichick called Gronkowski “among the best, most complete players at his position to ever play.”

Patriots team owner Robert Kraft lauded Gronkowski’s “youthful exuberance,” calling him “a joy to be around.”

“As great a player as he was, he is an even better person and ambassador of the game,” Kraft said. “... While Patriots fans are certainly going to miss seeing him play, he will be a Patriot for life.”

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