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Bowl game at SoFi Stadium gets new name, as Rob Gronkowski replaces Jimmy Kimmel as host

Former NFL tight end Rob Gronkowski stands on the field at SoFi Stadium
Former NFL tight end Rob Gronkowski stands on the field at SoFi Stadium, the site of the newly renamed LA Bowl Hosted By Gronk on Dec. 16.
(LA Bowl Hosted By Gronk)
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Rob Gronkowski has accomplished quite a bit in his 34 years.

During his 11-year NFL career, he played in five Super Bowls and won four of them (three with the New England Patriots, one with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers). He also made five Pro Bowls and set the single-season record for most touchdowns by a tight end in a season (18, in 2011).

But there’s still plenty more in life he hasn’t yet done — like, say, spike a football off the roof of SoFi Stadium.

“It will probably be the highest Gronk spike of all time I’ve ever had in history,” Gronkowski told The Times Friday.

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That was one of the ideas Gronkowski pitched to the organizers of the newly renamed L.A. Bowl Hosted By Gronk (formerly known as the Jimmy Kimmel L.A. Bowl), which will take place Dec. 16 at SoFi Stadium and pit the fifth- or sixth-place team in the Pac-12 against the top team in the Mountain West.

SoFi Stadium, home to Rams and Chargers games, isn’t as dangerous for fans as many other NFL venues, but alarming incidents have occurred.

Sept. 27, 2023

Ultimately, the high-altitude spike proposal was shot down. “Um, the lawyers didn’t like that one so much,” Chris Sloan, the head of global partnerships for SoFi Stadium, YouTube Theater and Hollywood Park, told The Times on Friday.

Being involved in the bowl game is the fulfillment of a dream Gronkowski never even knew he had. During his college football days at the University of Arizona, Gronkowski played in the 2008 Las Vegas Bowl, which at the time featured a similar Pac-12/Mountain West conference matchup as the L.A. Bowl does today. Gronkowski had four catches for 27 yards during the Wildcats’ 31-21 win over Brigham Young in the final game of his college football career.

“I would have never thought in a million years that I would now be hosting this bowl game,” Gronkowski said. “It’s unbelievable and it’s — I can’t even say a dream come true because it wasn’t a dream at the time. I never even thought about it. It’s an opportunity that is mind blowing that I could not pass on. ... It was a no-brainer because I played in this bowl game as well.”

Former NFL tight end Rob Gronkowski in the SoFi Stadium equipment room
Four-time Super Bowl champion Rob Gronkowski will serve as the official host of the Dec. 16 college football bowl game at SoFi Stadium. He’ll kick off game day with a specialized grand entrance, preside over the coin toss and close out the night with the trophy presentation.
(LA Bowl Hosted By Gronk)

Sloan said it was also a no-brainer to approach Gronkowski when the L.A. Bowl’s contract with Kimmel ended after the 2022 season.

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“We made a two-year deal with Jimmy and he was great, and it was how do we keep the momentum going from that? How do we stick out as the L.A. Bowl?” Sloan said. “And really we looked across a wide array of opportunities to make that happen and as we kind of got down to it, Gronk just made a ton of sense.

“He’s an exciting guy, a football guy. He’s a Pac-12 former player. He’s looking to do really cool and interesting things with his brand post-retirement. And I would say he’s been nothing but engaged through the process, so we’re super excited to work with him and see where this game goes.”

VIDEO | 02:26
Take a tour of SoFi Stadium in Inglewood

Times NFL writer Sam Farmer gives a tour of SoFi Stadium, the new home of the Rams and Chargers.

The deal was signed at a fancy restaurant in West Hollywood. According to Sloan, Gronkowski was the first person allowed to dine at the establishment while wearing shorts.

“To me, it was the perfect Gronk moment,” Sloan said. “He shows up in shorts to a pants dinner but he’s such a charming guy that they make an exception for him.”

Gronkowski will be involved in the bowl game from the planning stages all the way to the moment he presents the winning team with a championship belt during the trophy ceremony.

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Former NFL cornerback Rob Gronkowski holds a championship belt at SoFi Stadium.
Rob Gronkowski will present a championship belt to the team that wins the LA Bowl Hosted By Gronk on Dec. 16 at SoFi Stadium.
(LA Bowl Hosted By Gronk)

“I’m gonna be bringing the Gronk brand to the game, there’s no doubt about that, which includes energy, excitement, electricity and much more,” he said. “There’ll be dancing, there’ll be competitions with the fans, we’ll be creating food and beverage ideas, I’m gonna challenge the mascots to a dance-off as well and also there’s going to be a live performance by me — it may be at the beginning of the game, it may be at halftime, but I’m gonna be doing a live performance myself as well.”

Asked if that performance will involve singing and dancing, Gronkowski replied: “Possibly. You’re right on track, my brother.”

Here’s a handy guide that will introduce you to every NFL mascot and help you plan a trip to each of their home stadiums (as well as the stadiums of the four teams with no mascot).

Sept. 6, 2023

And what about Tom Brady? Will the quarterback who tossed 105 touchdown passes to Gronkowski during their years together in New England and Tampa Bay be involved in any of the festivities at Gronk’s bowl game?

“We’re working on it,” Gronkowski said. “I mean, I’m sure Tom’s gonna have a busy schedule. I don’t think he’s gonna be able to make it. But if he wants to come, he can 100% come and throw me a pass at halftime if he wants to do that. A 60-yard bomb!

“That’s likely not gonna happen, but that would be amazing if it does.”

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