Gronkowski, the All-Pro tight end and NFL legend, has long punctuated his touchdowns by spiking the ball. Much like how Patrick Mahomes became a household name with his no-look and sidearm passes, Gronkowski won the hearts and minds of social media with his “Gronk Spike.”
So why do Gronkowski and other players spike the ball after touchdowns? Here’s the backstory on one of football’s most popular celebrations.
NFL players often celebrate their touchdowns
Months before the 2017 season began, Roger Goodell and the NFL made a well-received decision.
For decades, NFL players had celebrated touchdowns with everything from dance moves to the famous Lambeau Leap. But some celebrations, especially those that involved choreography or going to the ground, resulted in unsportsmanlike conduct penalties.
That’s when Goodell and the NFL changed the game. The league announced in May 2017 that players could use the ball as a prop in addition to celebrating on the ground and with teammates.
Spiking the ball still remains a popular move after scores. Now, though, teams will gather in the end zone and perform highly-choreographed dance moves or skits even if they’re trailing by two scores in the fourth quarter.
Those relaxed rules don’t mean players can do anything without consequence. The NFL issued Giants receiver Odell Beckham Jr. a $12,154 fine in 2017 for mimicking a dog urinating on a fire hydrant.
Rob Gronkowski is famous for spiking the ball
For over a decade, Rob Gronkowski has celebrated his touchdowns with the “Gronk Spike.”
The move itself isn’t that special. Gronkowski, after hauling in a touchdown — almost always from Tom Brady — lifts his right arm up and sends the ball into the grass or turf.
Other NFL players have had far more elaborated or intriguing touchdowns. Former Giants wideout Victor Cruz celebrated his scores by salsa dancing.
Alfred Morris, a former Pro Bowl running back who spent the 2020 season with the Giants, swung his arms like he hit a home run. Morris also does the “Owl fingers” gesture, a reference to his alma mater, Florida Atlantic University.
People seem to love simplicity, though. Seeing a human being who stands 6 feet 6 inches and weighs 265 pounds slam the ball into the ground via spike is certainly simple.
Why do NFL players spike the ball after a touchdown?
If he hasn’t already done so, Rob Gronkowski may want to buy former New York Giants receiver Homer Jones a drink.
It was Jones, then in his second season with the Giants, who originated the spike in 1965. According to the NFL’s official website, Jones caught an 89-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Earl Morrall.
Although Jones intended to throw the ball into the crowd and give it to a fan, he remembered that NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle had banned the celebration. Instead of following through and earning a $500 fine, Jones threw the ball to the ground.
Jones later named that move the “spike,” and other players subsequently adopted the celebration. Had Jones not called an audible, one only knows how Rob Gronkowski would have punctuated all of his touchdowns.