Rob Gronkowksi will need to learn French another way next season as fellow tight end Antony Auclair, a Canada native, will leave the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in free agency.
Backup tight end Antony Auclair, who is fluent in French and English, will sign with the Houston Texans according to Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle on Tuesday. Gronkowski talked about Auclair as a teammate before the Super Bowl according to Canadian broadcaster Justin Dunk. Gronkowski said he learned some French and took his best attempt at imitating Auclair’s French accent — “eh, you’re a good guy”.
— Justin Dunk (@JDunk12) February 7, 2021
Auclair played in eight games and started twice for the Bucs last season. The fifth-year player served mostly a blocking role per Sports Illustrated’s All Bucs.
“Sometimes it’s tough,” Auclair told the Montreal Gazette’s Herb Zurkowsky before the Super Bowl. “You don’t get as much credit blocking big guys. Sometimes it’s hard, but I don’t mind it. I just love my role and playing football. At the end of the day that’s all that matters.”
In 40 career games, Auclair caught 10 passes for 84 yards with the Bucs. He played in all 16 games during the 2018 season but hasn’t played in more than eight games his other three seasons with the team.
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Auclair came from a small Canadian town of Notre-Dame-des-Pins where he played quarterback, but his college coach, Glen Constantin, recruited him as a tight end per Zurkowsky. The Bucs signed him as an undrafted free agent in 2017 from Laval University in Quebec City, Quebec.
He helped Laval win a Canadian national championship and posted 229 yards and two touchdowns along the way, making the All-Canadian Team, per Buccaneers.com. His career numbers didn’t jump off the page with 769 yards and four touchdowns in his 32-game collegiate career from 2013 to 2016, but the Bucs and other NFL teams saw something in the blocking tight end.
“I have known Antony since his university days, when he was still in Canada, since we had him on our radar,” Bucs tight end coach Rick Christophel told Today 24 News before the Super Bowl. “He is above all a blocker, it is his identity. He’s one of those players who won’t catch a lot of passes. He is able to hold the fort against big defensive ends and sometimes against tacklers who weigh 300 pounds.”
Auclair’s first NFL game in 2017 involved Tom Brady but when the quarterback played for the New England Patriots. Auclair soon played on the same team as Brady in 2020, and told Zurkowsky that Brady is “the greatest teammate of all time. It gives you a lot of confidence to know this guy trusts you. That’s big for a player like me who’s not from the States. To get his confidence and trust in you says a lot for me.”
Fun Locker Room Presence
Gronkowski, who grew up near Auclair’s country, shared an appreciation for Canada with Auclair per Today 24 News.
“He’s a really good guy, I love working with him. We have a kind of connection since I grew up in Buffalo, and we often crossed the border since it was a 20 minute drive away,” Gronkowski said. “He’s really fun.”
Tampa still has plenty of depth at tight end with Gronkowski, and O.J. Howard, who is returning from injury. Cameron Brate and Tanner Hudson also give the Bucs depth at the position.
Only four Bucs have left the 2020 Super Bowl team in free agency thus far with Andrew Adams, Joe Haeg, and Ryan Smith being the first three to depart.