To call this the year of Gronk might not be an overstatement.
New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski is everywhere lately – including the small screen, where he will be seen hosting a new show on Nickelodeon called Crashletes, which debuts on Tuesday.
“This definitely does sometimes feel surreal,” the colorful NFL star tells PEOPLE of his popularity on and off the field. “It feels like a dream come true.”
The 27-year-old Amherst, New York, native’s year began with another January playoff run by the Pats – who lost to the eventual Super Bowl champion Broncos in the AFC title game – and inclusion on another All-Pro team (in recognition of the tight end’s standout 2015-2016 season).
Those on-the-field achievements were followed by several off-the-field exploits, the first being a much ballyhooed three-day party cruise hosted by Gronkowski in February. (Twerking was involved.) Since then he was on the cover of the June edition of GQ, and will be on the cover of the popular sports video game Madden NFL 17, which will be released Aug. 23.
“I always dreamed about playing in the NFL, but [also] about living like a pop star off the field,” Gronkowski says, laughing. “But I do think I’m a little misunderstood. Everybody thinks I party like 24/7, but that’s not the case; it’s just that when I am out, it’s publicized, so people think that’s all I do.”
When he’s not painting the town red, Gronkowski, who has four brothers and lives in Foxborough, Massachusetts – home to Gillette Stadium, where the Patriots play – says he likes to go to the movies, play poker with buddies at his house, and shoot hoops.
“I like to be with my friends; just zone out with the boys and have a good time,” he says.
The 6-foot, 6-inch athlete does get his fair share of attention from the ladies, which can get “overwhelming” at times, he admits, adding “You’ve just got to be careful out there.”
For more than a year, Gronkowski has been linked to Camille Kostek, a 24-year-old former Patriots cheerleader, who is a model and current lifestyle ambassador for Benrus, a Rhode Island clothing and accessories company. While he confirms that they are dating, he prefers not to discuss details of his personal life.
However, he does not hesitate to talk about his support for teammate Tom Brady, who has been suspended for four games in the upcoming 2016-2017 season by the NFL for his alleged involvement the “deflategate” scandal. (Brady is appealing the decision).
“It’s kind of stupid and it’s gone on way too long,” he says. “I’m on Brady’s side 100 percent, but it’s so out of my hands that I just need to be there for Tom whenever I can.”
“And I’ve just got to prepare myself and make sure I’m ready for the upcoming season no matter who the quarterback is,” he adds.
Gronkowski is also eager to talk about his new TV hosting duties.
“It’s kind of like Ridiculousness on MTV, but it’s for kids and it’s a lot goofier,” he says. “My co-hosts [Stevie Nelson and Brandon Broady] are great, and we have fun feeding off of each other and laughing while we’re watching clips of people messing up while attempting to do athletic things. It’s great for kids; they’re going to love it.”
And it’s clear that kids love Gronk.
“Kids know I’m just being me and that I’m a kid at heart. I like doing kid things and having fun,” he says. “And it’s nice having parents come up to me and tell me that I’m such a great role model for their kid. It puts a smile on my face and makes me want to keep doing what I’m doing.”
But once he hangs up his cleats, does the gridiron standout see a future in television?
“I do feel super comfortable in front of the camera, and it’s definitely an option, but I’m doing a lot of things in the off-season just to get a feel for things and see what I like and don’t like,” he says.
“When the time comes, maybe it will come to me and I will say I want to do TV, or I want to do fitness, or I want to do nothing & who knows? But for now, I like doing a variety of things just so I have a feel of what everything is out there so when it does come to that time, I’ll know what I want to do.”
Crashletes premieres Tuesday at 7 p.m. on Nickelodeon.