- Mike Reiss, ESPN Staff Writer
- 0 Shares
For two long weeks, he waited for a breakthrough. Then the Patriots called and offered him a tryout.
"I was out of it, and it didn't look good," 6-foot-2, 213-pound Aiken said, recalling how he invested a lot into his workout with the team. "I just kept pushing through it. This is somewhere I really wanted to be."
Soon enough, Aiken was playing the role of Texans receiver Andre Johnson in practice before the Patriots' 42-14 victory on Dec. 10. Now he's on the active roster, having been promoted before each of the final two regular-season games.
He shared his football journey with ESPNBoston.com this week:
When he first started playing football: "When I was 6. In little league. My uncle took me out there, and it took off from there."
First positions: "Everything. In Miami, you have to learn them all -- O-line to running back. The only thing I didn't play was quarterback."
Role models in his life: "My mom [Juliet]. She's been through a lot, and to see where she came from and for her to still be on her feet right now and take care of two boys and put all of us through school -- everyone graduated with a college degree -- that was big. To see where she came from, and how she pushed through -- we never had a time when we wanted something; [she always] found a way to get it for us -- she's my biggest role model. She was basically our father figure at the same time."
Top memories of Chaminade-Madonna High School (Hollywood, Fla.): "Winning the state championship and just being able to play all the different sports -- track, basketball and everything like that. In the state championship, we broke the record for most points put up in the game. That was big."
Enrolling at UCF: "It really came down to who wanted me to play receiver. A lot of people wanted me to play safety, but I didn't want to. It came down to a couple schools -- North Carolina and Central Florida -- and I never took my visit to North Carolina. That's one thing I'd say I would do over again. I would have taken that visit. I had committed a couple weeks before."
Top memories at UCF: "There are a lot. Just enjoying the roommates that I had. There are a good group of guys that I'm still cool with now. And to win the first conference championship in our school history, and the first bowl game in our school history -- just to be a part of all that. There was a game against Texas my freshman year. That was our first game opening up our stadium, and they were the No. 2 team [in the country] coming in. That was a big game for me, starting as a freshman."
Expectations entering the 2011 NFL draft: "I felt like I had a chance [to get drafted]. My thing was just to prepare myself so that, when I did get the chance, I could take advantage of it. Everything else you can't control, so I just made sure I was on top of my game in terms of being in shape."
Going undrafted and signing a free-agent deal with the Bills: "They had a whole bunch of young guys that were trying to make a name for themselves, so I felt like I could have broken in and had a better chance to play with them."
Spending most of 2011 on the Bills' practice squad before playing in two games later in the season after being activated: "My thing was to always be prepared because you never know when they are going to call your name. That's one thing I took from being there -- take every week like you're going to play that week. Stevie [Johnson], the way he practices, he really goes at it. He's a competitor and wants to win every time, and I took that away from him."
Landing back on the Bills' practice squad after 2012 training camp before being let go Oct. 3: "It was kind of bitter because I didn't feel like I did anything that led to that. It just came down to a numbers thing. That's just the business we're in. I took it for what it was. It had me down for a little bit, but I was able to bounce back and keep my head straight. I have a good corner behind me as far as my parents and my support system. They kept me in it and kept me going."
Hooking on with the Bears' practice squad for a month: "Chicago was pretty relaxed. It was a different atmosphere as far as teamwise. They did a lot of stuff teamwise, bonding type stuff. That was something I took out of it."
Joining the Patriots' practice squad and being promoted to the active roster Dec. 22: "I just have to stay prepared. This is my first playoffs. I'm just excited. It's great right now."
What he loves about football: "A lot of stuff. I get to come out here and run around. I like to play, period, whatever it is -- basketball, football -- I just like to be active. I'd rather do this than sit in an office. That's how I take it every day. There are a lot of people who would like to be in my shoes."
Describing his play: "Versatile. I feel like I could do anything -- from slot, to outside, to whatever it is. I'm one of those people that, if you give me a task, I'm going to try my best to accomplish it."
Summing up his football journey: "Growing up, it was all athleticism. I felt like, the older you got, the more it came to your knowledge of the game and just knowing it more."