One of the best occurrences for a recruit is the scene experienced at the U.S. Army All American Bowl. While relaxing after a demanding first practice with the East squad, Aaron Hernandez talks about the differences from high school football, as well as the unique situation faced by a University of Florida early enrollee who plays in this game.
While preparing for the transition from high school football in the state of Connecticut to participating in the U.S. Army All American Bowl, Aaron Hernandez knew the differences would be vast.
“The first practice was fun,” said Hernandez. “These guys are so fast, that’s definitely the biggest change. It’s just a great time with the best players in the country.
“Comparing this to high school isn’t anything close. It was easy to block in high school and now I’m going against the top defensive players in the nation, so it’s a big challenge. It will definitely test me as a player, but that’s necessary.”
Hernandez knew which player impressed him the most, and just happened to share the same opinion as most players on the offensive side of the ball for the East.
“Eric Berry was the best defender, without a doubt,” Hernandez said. “He had a lot of picks today. He’s always near me somehow, even if he’s not covering me, he’s always around to make a play.”
Labeled by Scout.com as the #1 tight end prospect in the nation, a lot was expected from Aaron Hernandez this week. One of the more impressive moments of the East squad’s practice was a one handed catch he made while running down the sideline.
“Oh man, that’s what these games are all about,” Hernandez said between laughs. “It wasn’t that necessary actually. The ball just dropped in right over my shoulder. I just made a play on the ball. These games are about having fun and showing off your skills.”
With the competition as stiff as it was during Monday’s practice, the five star tight end knows he must bring his best to every practice. As the intensity of practices pick up, the electricity in the Alamo Dome on Saturday will bring out the best in Hernandez.
“Saturday I want to prove that I am the best tight end in the nation,” Hernandez said. “I believe that, and it’s time to it show off.”
Some questions have been raised as to where Hernandez sees himself fitting into the spread option used by the Gators. These questions do not concern him, as he knows he will actually be a great fit.
“People have been saying Florida not a tight end school, but they throw the ball and I love to catch it,” Hernandez said. “I’m still going to be blocking a lot. Other people say I won’t get the ball as much as I would at a school that used more of a pure tight end, but as long as there are mismatches on the field, you’re going to get the ball. From everything I’ve seen, the Gators run an offense that is all about mismatches.”
One of the biggest adjustments for a high school tight end is learning to block much stronger players than they ever faced in high school. Hernandez took it upon himself to find the appropriate assistance to make sure his blocking gets better this week, even talking to the East offensive line coach about getting extra work on his blocking technique.
“I’m an honest person, and I know the things I need to work on,” Hernandez said. “My blocking ability needs help. It has to get better to play at the college player and I know that.
“But one thing I can promise you that I am going to work my tail off to get better at it because I won’t be on the field if not. I’m going to work until I’m a great blocker. My receiving still has some work to do too. But hopefully I can get to that level as soon as possible.”
Before leaving Sunday morning for San Antonio, Hernandez said goodbye to his hometown of Bristol, Connecticut. After the game Saturday, he will go straight to Gainesville to be on campus in time for the start of classes on January 8th.
“I’m so anxious to get to Gainesville,” Hernandez said. “Being here with other future Gators has done nothing but get me more excited about it. Tears have been coming to my eyes I’m so excited.
“All my stuff has already been sent to Gainesville, and I talked to a coach there today who said they got it. It’s all finally happening and I couldn’t be happier.”
During the U.S. Army All American Bowl last year, a sense of unity was developed between players like East team members and current Gators Tim Tebow, Percy Harvin, Jarred Fayson, Carl Johnson, Corey Hobbs, and Brandon Spikes. Hernandez talks about how this year’s group of Gators is coming together well and doing some recruiting of their own.
“It’s been great with the four other Gator commitments here,” Hernandez said. “I called my mom today and told her it was the best experience of my life. You get to meet all the kids that you always read about online and look at how great they are. They are and great people as well.
“I’m definitely recruiting Deonte (Thompson) and Noel Devine, they aren’t completely sure but they said they want to go to Florida. I’m getting on a lot of guys out here. There will be some commitments because of this week.”
One of the players that Aaron Hernandez has grown much closer with this week is a recent Gator commitment, Ocala Trinity Catholic quarterback John Brantley.
“It’s only been one day of practice, but Brantley is a great quarterback. It’s one of those things that you can just tell when you see him throw. It’s such a beautiful ball. He’s also real tall so he can see over the line easy.”
The John Brantley to Aaron Hernandez connection was prevalent in practice Monday. During seven on seven drills they connected quite a few times, at least twice for 20+ yard gains. Watching Hernandez work out with the wide receivers, you would have thought that was his position. He is an incredible athlete who runs great routes, using his hands to bail out a quarterback for any bad throw.
The athleticism Aaron Hernandez brings to the tight end position, combined with his route running skills, appears to be the combination of skill which will give Hernandez an excellent chance at seeing the field early for Florida. For now however, this combination of skills will hopefully be what gets Hernandez into the end zone on Saturday.