79 catches for 910 yards and 7 touchdowns. Pretty impressive numbers posted by Aaron Hernandez, one of the New England Patriots’ two beastly tight ends. If not for the even more gaudy statistics compiled by Rob Gronkowski, Hernandez would be receiving even more praise for his stellar play since joining the Patriots in 2010. As it is, Hernandez can at times fly under the radar. But that suits Tom Brady and New England’s offense just fine, as the immensely talented tight end finds himself in favorable matchups more often than not while defenses key in on Gronkowski and, of course, Wes Welker. Don’t be surprised if Hernandez is an integral part of the game plan against the New York Giants in Super Bowl XLVI.
Hernandez joined Westwood One to talk about getting to play running back against the Denver Broncos in the AFC Divisional Round win, the evolution of the tight end position in the NFL, preparing to play against legends like Ray Lewis and Ed Reed in the AFC Championship, if he’ll be responsible at times for staying in to help block the Giants’ outstanding defensive pass rushers in the Super Bowl, what his best asset is as a tight end, and what the phrase the ‘Patriot Way’ means to him.
On getting to play some running back in the AFC Divisional Round matchup against the Broncos:
“Well growing up, I loved running back. That’s what I actually wanted to be, but I was either too big or too slow so I ended up being a tight end. But it’s a dream come true being able to play running back at this level, and getting one hand-off is great, and knowing I got a couple makes e feel great. Hopefully obviously I can do more.”
On the evolution of the tight end position in the NFL and if he ever thought it would be such a key part of offenses:
“I would say I’ve always had dreams and goals, but I would say I never thought it would happen this fast having a good season especially with another tight end who blew up probably more than any tight end in this league. It’s an honor to play tight end with the Patriots, especially with another great tight end. It feels great actually being able to accomplish what we’ve accomplished.”
On going up against legends like Ray Lewis and Ed Reed in the AFC Championship Game:
“Obviously I had to watch a lot of film on them because they’re great players and you’ve got to know where they are at all times. But I’d say it was an honor playing against those guys, I watched them growing up and they’re great players. I definitely had to watch film on them to know their tendencies and to know how they play their position so I don’t run across the middle and get smacked by Ray Lewis or run the wrong way and get picked by Ed Reed.”
If he thinks he’ll be asked to block the Giants defensive pass rushers in the Super Bowl:
“I would say there definitely will be times where I have to stay in and block, but most of the time I have help from a tackle or Gronkowski, so it makes it a little bit easier, or Gronk will always have a double team with a tackle. But if we are by ourselves, then obviously we have to do our best job against the D-ends because obviously they are great players. But most of the time we have help.”
On what he would say his best asset his as a tight end:
“I’d say quickness because in my routes, coming out of my routes, being quick, gives you that automatic yard to two yards of separation. But I’d say that’s the main thing in my game — being able to separate from players out of my break.”
On what the ‘Patriot Way’ means to him:
“I’d say just very disciplined team. We do it Bill Belichick’s way or no way. You have to come to work every day, you can’t be selfish or you won’t be here long. You don’t really talk back to coaches, you take coaching, and you come to practice every day, play hard, practice hard and perform on game day.”