Bristol Central H.S.
24.9 Average in Basketball
Bristol Central H.S.
All-State & All American
Army High School
by N.E. Pats
Aaron Hernandez, a Bristol
Central graduate, officially declared himself eligible
for the NFL draft this past week after a three-year
career as tight end for the University of Florida
football team, national champions a year ago. He’s being
projected as a likely second-round pick, if not a
Is he Bristol’s best ever?
Bristol has had a number of outstanding athletes who
have excelled at the national or international level.
We’ve had Scott Lachance in hockey, who had an NHL
career in recent years; the Josephson twins, Karen and
Sarah, Olympic gold medal winners in duet synchronized
swimming in 1992; and Eddie McHugh, who captained two
sports, basketball and baseball, at Yale in the late
1940s and early 1950s.
The late Andy Palau, a graduate of Bristol High in
1933, went on to earn All-American honorable mention accolades in football for
Fordham before playing minor league baseball as a teammate of Phil Rizzuto. We
had Tommy Shopay play baseball for the Yankees and Orioles during the 1960s and
How about Al Benecick, a 1955 Bristol High graduate and Syracuse University star
who went on to a Hall of Fame career in the Canadian Football League? There are
Now, is Aaron Hernandez the best athlete Bristol has produced? I’m sure many
readers will agree and some won’t. I’d like to hear from anyone who believes or
has another candidate.
First team All-American in Division I college football — no one has done that
before. In my opinion, Aaron is Bristol’s best ever, among our host of talented
I talked with Aaron’s uncle, Vito Hernandez, a month or so ago and he referred
to his nephew as a “freak,” meaning he was such a naturally talented all-around
athlete. A freak meaning this kind of kid doesn’t come along often, whether it
be here, in the state or nationwide.
An example of this was his ability with a baseball.
“He threw 89 miles an hour when he was in the eighth grade,” Vito told me.
Imagine if he had played high school baseball. What would he be throwing today?
Anyway, ask Vito about Aaron’s athleticism sometime. I certainly enjoyed doing
When Aaron hung up his Bristol Central football spikes, he did so as an
All-State and All-American high school player.
He left as the state’s all-time leader with 3,648 career yards receiving in
2006. The year before, he set the state’s single-season mark of 1,799 yards.
As far as touchdowns, he set a state mark his junior season in 2005 with 24
scoring receptions. His career total of 47 was also a state mark. The previous
mark had been a mere 31 TDs.
Aaron’s career highs in college are outstanding. And remember, not only was he a
consensus All-American this year, he was awarded the John Mackey award for his
work this past season. That award goes to the No. 1 college tight end in the
country. Not only was it athleticism that got him the honor, it was his
knowledge of the game, his standout academics and attitude he had on and off the
Career highs: Single-game receptions — 9; single-game yardage receiving — 120;
TDs in a game — 2 (twice); longest reception — 64 yards.
Career totals: Receptions — 111; reception yardage — 1,382; touchdowns — 12.
Aaron led the nation’s tight ends with his 68 receptions and 850 yards this past
Aaron has been good in the classroom, too. He was able to start college early by
getting his studies at Bristol Central in order so he could leave the January
before his class’s June 2007 graduation.
He’s done well in college, too. Remember, he’s just 20 years old, turning so
this past November.
I know that his dad always kept his boys on track as far as academics go. He had
been on that road himself and understood one’s need for an education to back up
a football-playing career that would end one day.
We see how well D.J. Hernandez has handled himself throughout his college years
and recently since he’s been out of school. A true all-around all-star in life.
The Hernandez family
In talking with Terri Hernandez recently, Aaron and D.J.’s mom, she told me she
didn’t know how she could handle things without D.J., including all the fuss
about her other son, Aaron.
I had a request for her and she gave me D.J.’s cell phone number to call. D.J.
answered and helped me with my question about Aaron.
Uncles Vito and David and other family members have been supportive of D.J. and
Aaron. I’ve met many family members, including cousins, and they, too, were
proud and have supported the boys.
It seems that it goes both ways and that’s the way a family should be. One can
have friends, but there’s nothing like family and the Hernandez family seems to
have that well in place.
Older brother D.J.
Aaron’s older brother, D.J., was a standout football player for Bristol Central,
graduating in 2004. He was the best in the state in the sport in being named the
Gatorade Player of the Year in Connecticut. He set state marks in being the
first player to both run and throw for 3,000 yards at the scholastic level.
He was an all-conference baseball player and earned All-State status twice for
his prowess on the basketball court. He led Central to the state basketball
Class LL crown in 2003.
As far as UConn football, we are aware and proud of his days there as both a
quarterback and wide receiver as a two-time captain.
During D.J. and Aaron’s high school days they collected numerous “Athlete of the
Week” awards; and each and every time they did, their dad, Dennis, drove them to
The Bristol Press to talk to me. He was their friend, advisor and, simply, a
good dad — the best a man could be.
It was no coincidence that Aaron officially declared himself eligible for the
NFL draft this past Wednesday, Jan. 6 — the fourth anniversary of his father’s
Dennis was always proud of his boys and I’m sure if he’s looking down he’s
saying, “Boys, you got it right. I’m very proud of both of you.”
I can remember some years back when D.J. was a high school sophomore and was
injured in a game at Muzzy Field. Everyone in the stands and on the sidelines
were in “hush mode” realizing the possibility that their young star player,
lying on the field, was badly injured. Among the first on the field was Dennis.
I can’t imagine how Dennis felt at that time, seeing his oldest son in such pain
and destined for surgery.
In closing this segment of this column, I want D.J. and Aaron to know how much I
admired and respected their father. He always treated me with great respect and
in return I showed him the very same.
“After much deliberation with my family and coaches, I am declaring myself
eligible for the 2010 NFL draft. 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 family,
whose love and support are the only reasons I am where I am today.” — Aaron
Hernandez in talking to the press on Wednesday.
“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.” — Steve Addazio, Florida interim head
coach, offensive coordinator and offensive line coach on Aaron Hernandez.
“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.” — Brian White, Florida tight end coach on Aaron Hernandez.
THE NUMBERS GAME
2 The number of touchdown catches he received from his brother, D.J.,
during Bristol Central’s 2003 season, his freshman year.
9 His nine receptions in his last game as a Gator, tying the school mark
for a single game.
20 His age.
24.9 He averaged 24.9 points per game his last season of basketball for
Bristol Central, his junior year of 2005-06.
40 He played his last game of high school basketball as a junior and in
it, a 91-69 first round loss to host Windham in CIAC Div. I play, he knocked in
a career-high 40 points. Included were three dunks and a three-pointer at the
end of the game.
81 His jersey number in playing for Florida.
111 He set a Florida record for tight ends by recording 111 career
receptions, this during a three-year career.
2006 He was Gatorade Player of the Year for Connecticut high school
football in 2006.
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