Gronk was a finalist for the cover a year ago before the honor went to Odell Beckham Jr in a fan vote last summer.  The Pats tight end has put up Hall of Fame numbers in his relatively short career, though injuries have dampened some of his production over the years.  He becomes the first tight end to grace the cover as well as the first New England player.

It was a big day for Gronk too because his latest GQ cover spread was made available earlier on Thursday as well.

Madden is known for the "curse" that plagues some of the cover athletes, though most of the recent selections such as OBJ, Calvin Johnson, and Roger Sherman have avoided bad seasons.