By Amy Tennery
(Reuters) - On the field, Tampa Bay Buccaneers tight end Rob Gronkowski and his Kansas City Chiefs counterpart Travis Kelce are fierce NFL rivals.
Off the field, however, there is nothing but love between the two 31-year-olds.
"He's the best player on the Chiefs’ offense," said Gronkowski, the three-time Super Bowl champion who will face Kelce in Sunday's Super Bowl showdown.
"He gets the drive going, he makes the big plays, he's very reliable and he's been there for a while."
The five-time Pro Bowler came out of retirement this season to join his former New England Patriots team mate Tom Brady in Tampa.
Going into Sunday, his impressive career stats include 86 receiving touchdowns and 8,484 receiving yards.
Gronkowski was full of praise for six-time Pro Bowler Kelce, who broke the single-season record for receiving yards by a tight end with 1,416 in 2020.
"He has helped put the tight end position on the map," said Gronkowski. "One thing that's very intriguing about Travis Kelce, and I never really seen this with any other player in the NFL before, is that Kelce gets better every single year."
Kelce, the first tight end to record five consecutive seasons with more than 1,000 receiving yards, said he's "been a Gronk fan before I even got in the league."
But that mutual admiration does not stop each of them chasing their career goals.
"I've never beaten Rob Gronkowski... and Tom Brady in a playoff situation, and I'm very aware of that," said Kelce, who had the second most receiving yards of any player in 2020.
"I think the AFC Championship game a couple years ago has fueled me to be more accountable for my team mates and to be better out there on the field when it's needed."
(Reporting by Amy Tennery, editing by Pritha Sarkar)