Junior tight end Aaron Hernandez (Bristol, Conn.) announced on Wednesday his intention to declare for the 2010 NFL Draft and forego his final year of eligibility.
"Aaron was one of the very best at his position that I have ever been around," said Urban Meyer. "He has been a key part of our success over the years, but he now has the opportunity to fulfill a lifetime dream by playing in the NFL. He has all of the tools to be successful at the next level and we wish him the best of luck."
Hernandez, a first-team All-American this season, became the first tight end in Southeastern Conference history to win the John Mackey Award, given annually to the nation's top tight end. He was also selected first-team All-SEC by the league's coaches and the Associated Press and was named the Walter Camp Connecticut Player of the Year. In 2009, Hernandez led all tight ends in the nation with 68 receptions and 850 receiving yards.
"After much deliberation with my family and coaches, I am declaring myself eligible for the 2010 NFL Draft," said Hernandez. "It is really special for me to take this first step toward my lifelong dream of playing in the NFL on the fourth anniversary of my father's passing. I know he would be proud of not only me, but of my whole family, whose love and support are the only reasons I am where I am today.
"My three years at Florida provided me with the foundation I need to succeed as a player and a person. I am eternally grateful to Mr. Foley, Coach Meyer and the entire Gator coaching staff for bringing me to Florida and serving as my family away from home. They were constantly pushing me to become a better player and - more importantly - a better person. I am so grateful for their guidance and support.
"I also want to thank my teammates for their help on the field and their friendships off the field. I was fortunate to have been a part of three great Gator teams with many great players who I know I will see at the next level. Finally, I will never forget Gator Nation. You all are the reason I wanted to come to Florida and I look forward to returning to Gainesville to cheer on future Florida teams with the best fans in the country."
Hernandez started 27 games in his career and finished with 111 catches for 1,382 yards and 12 touchdowns. In Florida's 51-24 win over Cincinnati in the 2010 Sugar Bowl, he totaled 111 yards on nine receptions, tying a UF record for catches by a tight end in a game, and opened the scoring on a seven-yard pass from senior Tim Tebow (Jacksonville, Fla.). He also set UF records for most catches by a tight end in a season (68 in 2009) and a career (111). His 68 catches in 2009 was the most in the SEC since 1999. He had 14 games in his career with 50-or-more receiving yards, including two games over 100 yards, and nine games with five-or-more receptions.
The NFL Draft will be held April 22-24 at Radio City Music Hall in New York.
What they are Saying About Aaron Hernandez "He's a guy who understands their offense. He knows all the blocking schemes and all the angles." (10/09) Les Miles, LSU Head Coach
"What makes him unique is that he's so athletic and he's one of those guys who can truly detach and be a legitimate receiver. He's a great route runner and has great speed. He's a hybrid tight end." (10/09/09) Steve Addazio, UF Offensive Coordinator
"In 23 years of coaching, he's probably the smartest football player I've been around. He's like one of those crazed super computers ... He's not even near his genetic ceiling." (9/16/09) Brian White, UF Tight End
"Aaron is a dynamic player. You saw what he could do last year. He's a dynamic guy that can catch the ball like any wide receiver and make the hard catches. You can get the ball in his hands as a tailback and he's really dynamic there and he can block at the point. It's hard to find guys like that throughout this country." (8/26/09) Steve Addazio, UF Offensive Coordinator
"I learned so much from C.I.; he's the one whose shoes I have to fill. He's a great player and the one who helped me all though camp. Even after he was injured, he came back and was helping me. He's the reason I'm playing and making plays right now." (9/15/08) Aaron Hernandez, UF tight end
"Aaron and I have always been close and I've always looked up to him. I was coming down here a lot during the spring and he was always saying that if I ever needed help to go to him. He's a good guy to look up to. He always has a positive attitude and a smile on his face. During practice he goes hard and gets after it. I could learn from that." (8/8/08) T.J. Pridemore, UF Fullback
"He's as improved player as we have. He's a weapon. We'll use him in the bowl game quite a bit. He's a big time football player. I think he's just scratching the surface of his potential. He's 245 right now. [We're going to] get him up about 250. He's a real strong 400-pound bencher. That's a great match-up for a defense. He's real fast, he's a tremendous route runner and he's got great hands. When you go out and recruit, he's what you look for. For us, we don't want the 268-pound guy that can't go down the middle of the field. He's exactly what we look for." (12/15/07) Urban Meyer, UF Head Coach
"Especially the last four weeks, he's really improved his knowledge of the game. He's really taking his game to the next level. That's what you've seen in the last few games, him being in there in some big plays and making some catches." (11/22/07) Tim Tebow, UF Quarterback
"In high school, I was actually able to run away from more people. But the SEC is the best conference and I can't just run away from people so I've got to start dragging people with me to get those extra yards." (11/22/07) Aaron Hernandez
"Get used to that name because he blocks well too. He's a mismatch issue. Aaron's earned it. That has been progressing over the last seven weeks that he's really become a good player. Seven weeks ago he was not a good player. He was a guy still feeling his way and he was still injured with his neck. Now he practices his tail off. That's player development. He's done a great job." (11/18/07) Urban Meyer, UF Head Coach
"When they called that play, my heart was pounding. I was really nervous right before we ran it. I just kept my eyes on Tim and the ball and then they blitzed us. I went right behind him and tried to sell the play as a run. Tebow threw a great pass." (10/20/07) Aaron Hernandez after first career TD reception at Kentucky