Niagara Gazette

March 26, 2013

NFL star Rob Gronkowski pays visit to Lockport High School student

LOCKPORT: Tight end Rob Gronkowski drops off jersey to big fan.

Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — Tawfiq Baity's New England Patriots jersey was dirty, so he couldn't wear it to school Tuesday. No worries, he had a new one delivered to him by a special guest.

As Baity sat in room 240 in Lockport High School a voice called out behind him, "Tawfiq! I heard you needed a new jersey."

The voice belonged to Rob Gronkowski, the two-time All-Pro tight end for the Patriots. He's also Baity's favorite player on his favorite team.

Needless to say, Baity couldn't believe it.

"Rob! I'm shocked," Baity said, repeatedly.

Gronkowski stopped by Lockport High School to meet Baity, as part of the work done by SWAGG – Simply Winning Applying God's Gifts – an organization that works to help the underprivileged and disabled.

SWAGG was shooting a documentary on Baity, who lives with cerebral palsy. The Lockport junior loves football, so much so he works as a special assistant coach with the Lions during the high school season.

Hass Saddique, SWAGG founder and a Buffalo native, was the man behind the surprise visit.

"He is the man at Lockport High School,” Saddique said of Baity, “and it's only fitting that something like this can happen to a kid that's so great.”

Gronkowski visited Tuesday with his father Gordon and his brother Dan, who is also an NFL tight end with the Cleveland Browns. He signed a Patriots jersey, one with Gronkowski's name and number 87 of course. The Gronkowskis also handed out some Gronk Nation wristbands.

Baity said Gronk was his favorite player for a couple of reason — "Because he made it big and he's from this area."

And meeting Baity was special, Gronkowski said. Hopefully, Baity will make it to New England for a Patriots game or see them when the Pats are in town to play the Bills.

"It's great, to give back to the community, make people's day," he said. "I look forward to meeting Tawfiq again."

Gronkowski said Baity's video had over 20,000 views and was seen all over the Boston area. The online video, produced by SWAGG at Lockport High School, wished Gronkowski a speedy recovery on his arm injury. Gronkowski broke his arm in November, then re-injured the arm in the playoffs.

Gronkowski and Baity had a chance to talk a little Tuesday. Baity even offered some advice to Gronk.

"Take care of yourself in the offseason," Baity said. "You're young, you have a promising career."

"And now I have to listen,” Gronkowski said. “He's cool and he just wants me to get healthy." 

The two talked football, with Baity offering to draw up plays for Gronkowski. With the loss of star receiver Wes Welker, Baity said New England should look at getting a receiver.

"I was shocked Welker left," Baity said.

"We still have some good ones," Gronkowski offered.

Baity's parents, Offie Abdul-Rashed and Deborah Phillips, were at the school when the Gronkowskis came by. The visit made their son so happy, they said.

"He's such a nice guy," Phillips said. "And the school district has been so supportive."

There is one thing Baity needs, Gronkowski said.

"Tawfiq needs a couple more Patriots fans around here. He has about one or two in the whole school. The rest are Bills fans," Gronkowski said. "Hopefully we can convert a few."

The SWAGG documentary will be posted online sometime in the near future. 

For Baity, it wan an unforgettable experience.

"I will always remember this day," he said.

Contact reporter Joe Olenick at 439-9222, ext. 6241 or follow him on Twitter @joeolenick.