Patriots TE Rob Gronkowski to be on cover of Madden NFL '17

— -- This might call for a celebratory "Gronk" spike.

New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski -- a transcendent talent at the position and one of the NFL's most popular players -- will be on the cover of Madden NFL '17, it was announced Thursday night on the 6 p.m. edition of SportsCenter.

Gronkowski is the first tight end to grace the Madden cover, and is also the first Patriots player to be selected.

"My rookie year [in 2010] it was just an honor to be in the game, just using yourself as a player, throwing yourself the ball every single time you can at home, just playing the game," Gronkowski told SportsCenter. "Now it's a dream come true, going into my seventh season and being on the cover.

"When I first found out, I was blessed. It was a surreal moment."

The announcement came just hours after it was announced that Gronkowski also is featured on the cover of GQ magazine.

Said Gronkowski: "It's been a great day."

Gronkowski, who turns 27 on Saturday, was a finalist in last year's cover vote and lost to New York Giants receiver Odell Beckham Jr.

"I've been close to being on the cover of Madden. Last year, I lost to Odell; he's an excellent player," Gronkowski said. "When I found out that I was truly going to be on the cover, it was a great feeling. ...

"I really didn't celebrate it. ... It was a feel-good moment, for sure, to know that you're going to be on the cover of Madden in the category of so many elite players out there that have been on it before."

In the past five years, a fan vote decided which player would be on the cover, but the process changed this year.

Gronkowski follows Beckham, Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman, Pro Football Hall of Fame running back Barry Sanders,  Detroit Lions receiver Calvin Johnson and then- Cleveland Browns running back Peyton Hillis as players featured after winning cover votes.

Madden NFL '17 will be released Aug. 23.

Over the last two seasons, Gronkowski has totaled 154 receptions for 2,300 yards and 23 touchdowns. After each touchdown, his trademark is to forcefully spike the football into the ground.