Juniors cornerback Joe Haden and tight end Aaron Hernandez have both announced this week their intention forgo their final season of collegiate eligibility and declare for the 2010 NFL Draft. Haden, who started all 40 of his career games and was the first true freshman to start at CB in school history, made his declaration on Sunday while Hernandez, who was the first TE in Southeastern Conference history to win the John Mackey Award, let his decision be known Wednesday.
Finishing his career with eight interceptions and 218 tackles, Haden was a consensus first-team All-American, first-team All-SEC coaches selection and first-team All-SEC Associated Press selection as well as a finalist for the Jim Thorpe Award in 2009. “This was a tough decision, and I spent a lot of time with my family talking about it,” Haden said. “I’m so proud that I had the chance to be a Gator. It’s been one of the best experiences of my life. Coach [Urban] Meyer and Coach [Vance] Bedford have helped me in so many ways. I’ll always be thankful to them for everything, and I know I’ll never forget the fans in Gator Nation.”
Hernandez, also a first-team All-American, first-team All-SEC coaches selection and first-team All-SEC AP pick, led his position group in the nation with 68 receptions and 850 receiving yards in 2009. He started 27 games with the Gators and finished with 111 catches for 1,382 yards and 12 touchdowns while setting school records for most catches by a tight end in a season (68) and career (111). “After much deliberation with my family and coaches, I am declaring myself eligible for the 2010 NFL Draft,” Hernandez said. “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.”
Five remaining juniors including defensive end Carlos Dunlap, offensive linemen Maurkice and Mike Pouncey and safeties Major Wright and Ahmad Black are still deciding whether or not to leave school. This year’s NFL Draft will be held from April 22-24 at Radio City Music Hall in New York, NY. OGGOA will offer live coverage of the event both on this Web site and via twitter.