An emotional Aaron Hernandez, who finalized a five-year, $40 million contract extension with the Patriots today, spoke with reporters before the team's annual Kickoff Gala, and called it one of the best days of his life.
"It's an honor and it seems so surreal like, 'Is it really true?' It's just a dream and knowing I can help my family, they're the ones who I love, it's just an honor," Hernandez said.
Hernandez seemed genuinely humbled and overwhelmed by the idea of his new contract as he spoke, admitting that he was very emotional about it, and cried with his family when he told them the news.
The 23-year old Connecticut native was a fourth-round draft pick in 2010, when off-field concerns (the Globe reported multiple failed drug tests while he was at Florida) caused him to fall in the draft. He spoke of the Patriots taking a chance on him and essentially changing his life, and showed his appreciation to Robert Kraft by writing a $50,000 check to the Myra Kraft Giving Back Fund.
"He changed my life. Now, I'm able to basically have a good chance to be set for life and have a good life and I have a daughter on the way, and I have a family that I love," Hernandez said. "It's just knowing that they're going to be OK, because I was happy playing for $250,000, $400,000 but knowing that my kids and my family will be able to have a good life, go to college, it's just an honor that he did that for me. He gave me this opportunity. So the $50,000 to help his foundation, obviously it's basically saying thank you."
He revealed that he has a daughter on the way, due to arrive around Nov. 12.
Now that he will be with New England for the long haul, Hernandez wants to live up to the deal that he's been given.
"I couldn't be with a better franchise. I know Tom (Brady is) going to be around for a while. I love the coaches. I'm [geographically] close to my family. The whole organization is actually an organization. A lot of places are called organizations but are they really organized?
"This is the place that not only did it change my future from them paying me, but it just changed me as a person because you can't come here and act reckless and do your own stuff. And I was one of the persons, I came here might have acted the way I wanted to act, but you get changed by Bill Belichick's way and you get changed by the Patriot way and now that I'm a Patriot, I have to start living like one and making the right decisions for them."