Brate was entering his seventh season with the Buccaneers, and had caught 27 touchdowns for the team since 2015. And with O.J. Howard also on the roster, Brate feared he might be the odd man out.
But then he got a call from Tom Brady.
“He just told me, hey man you’re going to love Gronk,” Brate said Tuesday. “You’re still going to have a role on this team, but you’re going to learn a lot from Gronk. Gronk’s a great player, great teammate, he’s going to help our team out a lot. So that kind of eased any concerns I had, really, about wether I was going to play at all once we got Gronk.”
Brate was right to have some trepidation about his playing time, as he played 16 total snaps through the season’s first three weeks. But then Howard tore his Achilles, and Brate was once again Tampa Bay’s second tight end. He finished the year with 28 catches for 282 yards with a pair of touchdowns. The Harvard product has been a critical postseason piece, making 11 catches for 149 yards with a TD in three games.
But playing with Gronkowski has been a highlight for Brate, who looked up to the tight end when he was in college.
“He’s a great player, but he obviously brings a lot to the locker room as well and the tight ends room, too,” Brate said. “I’d say Gronk is not like a funny guy, per se, he’s just really funny to be around. He’ll say something that’s not funny at all and he’ll just start cracking up at his own joke. So you’re not really laughing at what he said, you’re kind of just laughing at his laugh. But he just has so much energy and he’s such a joy to be around, I love being his teammate this year.”