updated 02/27/2010 AT 3:00 PM ET
•originally published 02/28/2010 AT 10:00 AM ET
Sandra Bullock’s The Blind Side costar Quinton Aaron has an admission: He’s long had a crush on the Oscar-nominee. But after being cast opposite Bullock in the family and football drama and learning she was attached – as in married, to motorcycle builder Jesse James, since 2005 – he was happy to take their relationship in another direction.
“I’ve been a fan of hers for years – I was in love with her for years!” the 6’8,” 25-year-old actor – who plays real-life Baltimore Ravens offensive tackle Michael Oher as a young man – told PEOPLE at Friday’s NAACP Image Awards ceremony in Los Angeles. “So I found out she was married and I was like, ‘Okay, I’ll settle for friendship.’ ”
“She’s just awesome,” Aaron gushed. “She’s the most caring, loving individual that I know. She’s one of the most beautiful women inside and out that anybody can have the pleasure of knowing, meeting and working with, and I felt so honored to be in that position.
Aaron says whenever fans of the film recognize him in his everyday life, Bullock’s usually the first topic of conversation. “When people see me they’re like, ‘Oh my god, It’s you, from The Blind Side! I love you, we loved your movie – Oh my god, how was it working with Sandra?’ That’s what I get the most.
“And I’m like, ‘Sandra? Don’t even get me started …’ ” he said laughing, rolling his eyes and pretending he’s had his fill of the Best Actress contender. “No, it’s truly been a blessing.
“She stays professional as well as not letting it get to her head,” he explained. “She’s real serious and humble about what she does, but she’s also a humble individual. She’s not up in the clouds, unreachable, you can’t talk to her, you can’t approach her. Anybody can speak to her and she’ll speak to them. She’ll love and care for anybody and respect anybody, and I love her for that. She’s just real.”
The 82nd Annual Academy Awards will be presented on Sunday, March 7, and televised live on ABC beginning at 5 p.m. PT/ 8 p.m. ET.