- Field Yates, ESPN Insider
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Later tonight, Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez will be honored by Pop Warner with their Inspiration to the Youth award, an honor he told ESPNBoston.com he's very grateful to receive.
"It's an honor knowing that kids look up to me and that I have a chance to change their lives," he said. "Hopefully [I can] give them some advice that will help them towards their futures. It really means a lot."
Pop Warner was where Hernandez, a native of Bristol, Conn., got his start in football, back when he was a youngster.
"That's when it all started," he said of playing Pop Warner. "I was 5, 6 years old, that's when it all started. I started in flag [football] on the Pop Warner field and then went from there on up."
In addition to Hernandez, Pop Warner will be honoring the Patriots as the Team of the Year and former Patriots tight end Ben Coates with the Humanitarian award.
As his football career has progressed, Hernandez has turned to film of Coates to study and learn from. Coates, a five-time Pro Bowler with the Patriots, finished his career with 499 catches and 50 touchdowns.
"I actually didn't watch much football when I was young, but I've definitely watched film on him as the years went on the more I heard about him," Hernandez said of Coates.
Hernandez, who underwent surgery earlier this offseason, has been kept off the field for the start of organized team activities, though he is expected to be ready for the start of training camp.