The panel was pretty sure they were dealing with a professional athlete, maybe one who has crossed over to movies or TV, so the guesses ranged from John Cena to Jason Momoa and retired New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski. Of course, panelist Ken Jeong didn’t guess that because, well, have you seen the show? He was at least in the ballpark with his guess of Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt, so, small miracles.
As it turns out, Robin Thicke and Jamie Foxx had it right all along, because that big cat was indeed the man we love call Gronk, who hopped on the phone with Billboard to talk about his wild ride before Wednesday night’s final end-zone romp.
"I just thought it would be cool to be in a mask and be singing. I've always wanted to learn how to sing. I've actually always wanted to learn how to dance too," Gronk said of his newly secured entertainment skills. But are they that new?
When he was the face of the Madden NFL 17 video game, Gronk put on his best Bon Jovi get-up for a rousing reiteration of the rock band's 1987 No. 1 hit "Livin' on a Prayer." "I'm saying you should look at the Madden team you've got/ If you need a solid tight-end, let me fill that slot/ You got receivers, but they're not quite big enough/ So give me a shot/ Whoa, you're halfway there/ Whoa-oh, but you need another player," he bellowed in the ad. Repeating such an iconic performance could've been a dead giveaway, but that's not why he wasn't allowed to do it on the series.
"It actually did come up at one point, 'Livin' on a Prayer,' but I think someone already did it before in previous episodes," he recalled correctly. (The Butterfly, who was later revealed as Destiny's Child's Michelle Williams, from season 2 performed the song.) "But that would've been a great one to do again, you know, to have a little experience from my Madden background, a famous song."
But the famous song Gronk comes back to over and over again on karaoke nights and loyally chose to break the ice on night 1 of season 3 was Vanilla Ice's 1990 No. 1 smash "Ice Ice Baby."
"I never really remembered the song, I always just sung the lyrics off of the karaoke machine, so I kinda had it down a little bit," the former pro footballer admitted. "So obviously I'm gonna go with that one as my first song because that's the one I've been doing."
But practice for the singing competition series felt as tireless and challenging as NFL practice, considering he spent about five hours memorizing a song he's hailed as his karaoke go-to for the last few years. Gronk also confessed his pipes lost their touch during his "Good Vibrations" gig, when he missed a few lyrics and a spin move in the choreography, but the constant movement and big-day nerves in preparation for each episode was nothing short of what he experienced during his nine seasons in the NFL.
"The nerves are very similar, you know, you get a little shakiness going, your nerves rumbling right before you get up onstage and before a big game. But it definitely is a little bit different conditioning," the 30-year-old star explained. "Singing, dancing... and having a costume on is a little bit different than running and tackling and doing that kinda stuff. So you gotta practice."
Gronk's fire-breathing first night sure earned him his stripes early on in the season, but White Tiger wasn't the only big cat onscreen, with Netflix's Tiger King causing the show's viewers, especially its most famous ones, to growl about it.
"Wow, the Tiger King, I haven't seen the show yet. I really don't know much about it, but I've been hearing about it from people in many group-type messages," he disclosed. "All I know is that the White Tiger is out there, and Tiger King is out there, so tigers are doing big things right now.... It's tiger season right now, baby!"
Maybe it's that level of fierceness that allows for a former tight end to eliminate a rapper like Lil Wayne and a soul singer like Chaka Khan from the ranks, but according to Gronk, he was equally "shocked" about his feat as the rest of the viewers.
"It's just incredible to even be on the show with them. But to me, everyone's like, 'Dude, how did you beat Lil Wayne, Chaka Khan and Drew Carey?' And I just tell them, ''Cause I'm just a performer. It's not my singing, it's not my dancing, it's just me going up on the stage and performing. That's all, baby,'" he claimed.
But Gronk hasn't seen the last of any masks yet. Earlier this week, he and his girlfriend/Sports Illustrated model Camille Kostek donated 20,000 KN95 masks to medical workers combatting coronavirus at St. Joseph’s Healthcare Network in New Jersey and Boston Medical Center in Massachusetts, according to SI editor MJ Day, whose husband works as a physician at St. Joseph's.
"[Kostek] came up with the idea, she knew some people working at the hospital... her friend's husband works there and they were struggling for equipment, for masks," he said about their donation. "So it was a very cool idea and collaboration to do with my girlfriend and the hospitals."
According to Day's Instagram post, their letters to each medical facility read as follows: "May these bless you and protect you while you do what you do best. Thank you for being the heroes we need at such a critical time. We love you!"