Former New England Patriots superstar Aaron Hernandez’ life ended with a theme all too familiar to him; questions surrounding murder, only this time Hernandez took his own life instead of someone else’s.
Mutual feelings of shock and disgust were some of the reactions many were left with after news broke early Wednesday morning that Hernandez was found dead inside his Massachusetts prison cell from an apparent suicide.
A statement from the prison said that “Hernandez, who was serving a life sentence, was alone in his cell in a general population wing and had attempted to block his door from the inside by jamming the door with various items.”
It’s hard not to think about Hernandez the football player juxtaposed to Hernandez the individual because, after all, we were introduced to him on the football field.
But the reality is the two aren’t separate. They’re one in the same.
If we’re being quite frank, the reason this story is so compelling is because he was a high-profile athlete and there are so many intricate layers to it. This has to be one of the most precipitous falls from grace that I can recall seeing an athlete endure in recent memory.
How does one go from winning a BCS championship with the Florida Gators, to catching passes in Super Bowl XLVI from future Hall of Famer Tom Brady, to catching charges from the U.S. criminal justice system, then ultimately dead?
Now obviously that’s a condensed version of the timeline of events that took place in Hernandez’ life and there were a myriad of things that happened in between then. But whether you delve into the complexity of the enigma that was Aaron Hernandez or just
simply believe everything you saw and heard about him, I think we can all agree that there were no moral victories in this ordeal.
Hernandez’s life along with the lives of the man he was convicted of killing and those whose homicides he was acquitted of ended way too soon. For the sake of reflection let’s put the story and life of Aaron Hernandez in proper perspective featuring the good, the bad and the ugly.
The good. Hernandez was a football prodigy at a young age in Connecticut where he grew up, ironically not too far from Massachusetts. He would go onto attend college at the University of Florida where there was no quarterback more polarizing at the time than his very own, Tim Tebow. Hernandez was selected in the fourth round of the 2010 draft by the New England Patriots.
In that same draft the Patriots selected tight end Rob Gronkowski as well. The two would go onto to form one of the most dynamic tight end duos in modern-day NFL history. Gronkowski went onto become arguably the best tight end in the NFLas his team captured two Super Bowls in three tries. Hernandez, however, wasn’t as fortunate as the Patriots lost the only Super Bowl he played in back in 2012. None of us knew that Hernandez was staring down even bigger losses in his future.
The bad. In his short stint in the NFL, Hernandez in conjunction with Gronkowski ascended to top tier status. His on the field play warranted success, fame and riches. The Patriots rewarded Hernandez in 2012 with a five-year contract extension worth up to $40 million. Not even a full year later after signing that lucrative deal, Hernandez was arrested and charged with the murder of Odin Lloyd, where it was believed the two had a very complicated relationship. Hernandez wasn’t officially charged until nine days after
Lloyd’s death, but ninety minutes after news broke of his alleged involvement, the Patriots released Hernandez and erased any mention of him from the team’s website.
The ugly. Already in jail for his alleged involvement in the death of Lloyd, in May 2014 prosecutors charged Hernandez with two murder counts in the July 2012 deaths of Safiro Furtado and Daniel de Abreu; two men who were killed in a drive-by shooting outside
a Boston nightclub. Just last Friday Hernandez was acquitted on both murder counts in that case, but was convicted of illegal possession of a firearm. However, Hernandez still faced life without the possibility of parole for Lloyd’s death. With one case down and another to go Hernandez’s defense team knew the possibility of him being a free man one day would be an uphill battle. Yet they were cautiously optimistic.
Then suddenly optimism turned to heartbreak, as Hernandez took his life by hanging himself just days after he was acquitted of the double homicide and coincidentally on the same day his former team the New England Patriots made their White House visit.
We already knew that Devin McCourty, Martellus Bennett, Dont’a Hightower, Chris Long, Alan Branch and LeGarrette Blount would not be attending; each citing different personal reasons.
But the face of the Patriots himself, Tom Brady, also opted out at the very last minute. In a statement provided by the team to CNN, Brady said, “Our team has accomplished something very special that we are all proud of and will be for years to come. Thank you to the President for hosting this honorary celebration and for supporting our team for as long as I can remember. In light of some recent developments, I am unable to attend today’s ceremony, as I am attending to some personal family matters…”
For a team that prides itself on the ‘Patriot Way’ and staying relatively drama free controversy always seems to surround them.
Much like the life and death of Hernandez.
Marcus Lamar is a Washington D.C.-based sports journalist. You can check out his podcast “Marc My Words” on Soundcloud, YouTube and coming to iTunes soon. Follow him on Twitter @iam_marcuslamar.