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Saturday, October 2, 2010
Football journey: Aaron Hernandez

By Mike Reiss

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – At 20 years old, rookie tight end Aaron Hernandez is one of the youngest players in the NFL.

That hasn’t stopped the Patriots’ fourth-round draft choice from making a quick impact. His 13 receptions rank second on the team, while his 211 receiving yards are a team-high.

A native of Bristol, Conn., Hernandez recapped his football journey with ESPNBoston.com:

Aaron Hernandez
Growing up, Aaron Hernandez was a fan of the Patriots but not necessarily Tom Brady.
When he first started playing football: “I started when I was 5, 6 or 7. It was flag football. My father helped out as a coach. That was fun. I was a running back, trying to get loose. I wasn’t that good back in the day.”

Playing at Bristol Central High School: “As a freshman, I played on varsity. My brother [D.J.] was on varsity, so he showed me the ropes. He was the person I could look up to, which helped me be more advanced than most in my own class.”

Top memories of high school: “I’d probably say my freshman year, my first catch. It was from my brother and it was a touchdown.”

Switching to tight end: “That happened my sophomore year of high school. At first, I was mad. I wanted to be a receiver. They made me put on some weight. It turns out tight end worked out pretty good.”

Why he was switched to tight end: “I was bigger than everyone in high school, playing receiver. We needed a tight end and they picked me.”

Playing at Florida: “It was a nice little time there. Picking a top memory is easy -- winning a national championship.”

Players in the NFL he looked toward: “I never really had one specific player. Obviously, I looked at players like [Randy] Moss when I was more into receiver. I was never really into tight ends. I tried to pick up different things from tight ends, depending on their size. What could I do like them? What could I pick up? People like Antonio Gates, Tony Gonzalez, [Kellen] Winslow, guys like that.”

Role models as a youth: “My brother and my father. I looked up to them a lot. They always pushed me. They saw my potential.”

Favorite NFL team growing up: “The Patriots. I was a Drew Bledsoe fan. The memory I think of the most was when [Tom] Brady took it over from him. I was kind of mad at Brady. Now he’s my quarterback and I love it [laughing].”

What he’s learned about life in the NFL: “I’ve loved it since the day I got here. I wasn’t the biggest fan of school. Coming here, all you do is football. That’s all I like to do – I like to play football. I just do it all day.”

Life as a Patriot: “It’s been perfect. It couldn’t have been better, having my family right here. They always see my games. I’m never homesick, so it’s a blessing. As a team, I’d say we’re down to business, focused and we’re one unit.”

Teaming up with Rob Gronkowski and Alge Crumpler: “I feel like we’re a dynamic group. All three of us can run around and catch the ball very well. Obviously, [Rob and Alge] are great blockers. I do what I can in that area. I try. I feel like all three of us can make a big play in a game.”

Interests outside of football: “Basketball is my first love.”

Hopes for the future: “I was part of a national championship. Now I just want a Super Bowl. Whatever I can do to contribute and help this team, that’s what I want to do."