Anything for a Ring

Entering the 2008 season, sophomore tight end Aaron Hernandez was expected to be an understudy to Cornelius Ingram and then play on the occasional double tight end formation. When Ingram went down in the preseason with an ACL injury, Hernandez had to step up. As the '08 season went on, his numbers slowly improved, and now he's ready to be a force for the Gators when they play Oklahoma.

The 6-3, 255-pound Hernandez has caught 29 passes for 324 yards and five touchdowns this season. In the last two games, he's recorded about a quarter of those numbers with seven catches for 104 yards and pair of touchdown receptions.

"I just want to go win a national championship," Hernandez said. "If it takes for me to go out and block or catch passes, all I want to do is go out and win a ring."

Hernandez hasn't had a chance to learn much about Florida's opponent in the BCS title game, but he's got a lot of respect for the Sooners based on the numbers he's seen.

"I haven't been watching film on them," he said. "When we start meeting together as a team again, I'll watch film. They're a great team with a whole bunch of great players. We're looking forward to playing against a great team."

During the second half of the season, Hernandez has found a niche on one of the Gators option plays. When quarterback Tim Tebow rolls out with a running back behind him, Hernandez has often been the lead blocker. But if there's no one for Hernandez to block, he's available for a shovel pass.

Tebow has gained confidence in Hernandez, and Hernandez was one of his biggest supporters this past weekend during the Heisman presentation.

"He is one of the most valuable players in the country," Hernandez said. "I text messaged him and told him no matter what happens, I think he's the best quarterback in the country. I still believe that. Sometimes it doesn't always go to your favor. We must now have to go win a national championship."

The offense will likely be led by Dan Mullen during the BCS title game. Hernandez was surprised when he learned the news, though, that Mullen was leaving Florida to become the head coach at Mississippi State, but he understood.

"I was shocked, but he's got a baby coming and he's got to do what's best for him," Hernandez said. "He's got to go where the money is at."

Hernandez said he was more shocked that Mullen was leaving than him taking over a team in the same conference. Regardless, he hopes Mullen will indeed be with the Gators in Miami.

"It means a lot to the offense," he said. "It would be great if he did come back."


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