eckett Wales describes his relationship with Aaron Hackett as “brotherly.” They text and call each week and Snapchat often. Wales grew up playing sports with Hackett’s older brother, later coaching Hackett when he was in high school.
When the time came for Aaron Hackett to choose a college to attend, a decision made up of more than 30 Division I schools, Wales, a former Syracuse tight end from 2010-13, wasn’t pushing him toward central New York.
“Nothing against Syracuse, great education, great football program,” Wales said. “But Harvard, who gets to go to Harvard?”
Aaron Hackett is the latest successful tight end to come out of Venice High School in Florida. Trey Burton, his idol, was a quarterback there and has now played six years in the NFL. Wales played alongside Trey at Venice before his career at SU — where he finished fourth all-time in receptions for a tight end — and has been a coach there since leaving college.
As he enters his senior year at Syracuse, Aaron Hackett’s expected to be a key contributor to an offense that struggled in 2019. He’s always been a blocker, but his improvements as a receiver — which began years ago in Venice — will determine his success in 2020.
“The most important thing I learned (at Venice) was how to carry yourself as a football player,” he said. “The hard work and dedication it takes to be a football player and what it takes to succeed at the next level.”
Multiple people described Venice — a small city near Sarasota, Florida with a population of about 20,000 — as a “one school town.” It’s home to the 2017 state champions and 21-year head coach John Peacock, who has consistently produced high-major Division I talent.
Much like Syracuse, Peacock runs a no-huddle offense. Babers told the Hacketts when they officially visited the school that the Orange’s coaches feel more comfortable recruiting Florida kids because of the longer seasons and the overall competition level. The transition to SU was ”pretty easy” for Hackett, Peacock said.
“Leaving this program, I was light years ahead of guys that came in with me,” said Clay Burton, Trey Burton’s younger brother, who played tight end at the University of Florida after Venice. He’s now the strength and conditioning coach at Venice. “It’s one of the best schools in Florida, so you’re going to play the best teams, the best players.”