- Mike Rodak, ESPN Staff Writer
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FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Upon agreeing to a five-year contract extension on Monday, Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez made a charitable gesture that owner Robert Kraft acknowledged in remarks Monday evening at the team's annual charitable foundation gala.
"One of the touching moments since I've owned the team -- knowing that this is our charitable gala tonight -- Aaron came into my office, a little teary-eyed, and presented me with a check for $50,000 to go to the Myra Kraft Giving Back Fund," Kraft said. "I said 'Aaron, you don't have to do this, you've already got your contract.' And he said 'No, it makes me feel good and I want to do it.'
Hernandez joins fellow tight end Rob Gronkowski in signing long-term contract extensions this offseason. Both were drafted in 2010; Gronkowski in the second round, and Hernandez in the fourth round.
"We're privileged to have two of the best young players on this team we know are going to be here for quite some time," Kraft said. "We know that both players had issues coming out, so where we drafted them was not indicative of how good they really were, and I think both of them have really shined here."
To Kraft, Hernandez's donation reflected the organization's desire to have players give back after receiving financial security by playing in the NFL.
"That made me feel good because part of the thing that we learned early on is that we have a lot of young men who come into this business, and they come from humble financial homes, and part of what we try to do is make them understand is that there is a psychic income involved in giving back both your time and your financial resources, if you can do that," he said.
"And I sensed that he was touched in doing that. We didn't request it, it's something that he decided. And to flip the switch from living modestly to all of a sudden having a lot of income, I think we have to work real hard to help our young men adjust to that."
Kraft admitted that the first impression of Hernandez may not reflect the tight end's true character.
"I just think he's a super player, and really a first-class guy," Kraft said. "Some people might see all the tattoos on him and think. ... Maybe 10 years ago I was in that class, (now) I think 'Wow, this guy's a good guy.' And we made a big commitment to him."
For Hernandez, the donation was a gesture of thanks.
"He changed my life. Now I'm able to basically have a good chance to be set for life, and have a good life," he said. "I have a daughter on the way, I have a family that I love. It's just knowing that they're going to be OK. Because I was happy playing for my two hundred fifty, four hundred thousand [dollar salary]. Knowing that my kids and my family will be able to have a good life, go to college, it's just an honor that he did that for me. He gave me this opportunity. The $50,000 to help his foundation, obviously, is basically like saying 'thank you' and its means a lot to me.
"He didn't need to give me the amount that he gave me, and knowing that he thinks I deserve that, he trusts me to make the right decisions, it means a lot. It means he trusts my character, and the person I am, which means a lot, cause my mother, that's how she wanted to raise me. They have to trust you to give you that money. I just feel a lot of respect and I owe it back to him. Not only is it $50,000, cause that's not really, that's just the money that really doesn't mean much, with the amount given, it's more, I have a lot more to give back, and all I can do is play my heart out for them, make the right decisions, and live life as a Patriot."