Aaron Hernandez is known both as a superstar football player, and a convicted murderer. Hernandez quickly went from one extreme to the other in a matter of a few short years. His life is described as a tragedy, a waste of talent and opportunity. He leaves behind a daughter, NCAA and NFL records, and many unanswered questions.
Hernandez was born in Bristol, Connecticut where he began his football career. He played football in high school where he shined as a tight end and became one of the top recruits. During high school, he lost his father at the age of 16. He was greatly affected by his father’s death and began a streak of rebellion against authority. Could this have been the catastrophic event that sparked Hernandez’s troubled life?
In 2007, Hernandez began playing for the Florida Gators after an impressive high school career. In 2009, his receiving yards helped the Gators win their second BCS Championship in three years. The following year in 2010, he was drafted by the New England Patriots and was the youngest player on the team. In 2011, he helped lead the Patriots to a Super Bowl game. Hernandez’s career looked promising.
In his personal life, Hernandez also appeared to be making strides. In 2007, he had begun dating Shayanna Jenkins. In 2012, the couple got engaged and Jenkins gave birth to their daughter Avielle. That year, Hernandez purchased a $1.3 million-dollar home for his family in Massachusetts. He had his career and his family, but unfortunately, he also had a propensity for trouble.
In July of 2012, Hernandez was investigated for double homicide in Boston which would be the first in a series of legal investigations that would eventually lead to his demise. He was investigated in the murder of two men who killed by gunshots out of a moving vehicle. Hernandez wouldn’t be indicted for the murders until May of 2014.
Almost a year later in June of 2013, Hernandez found himself at the center of another homicide investigation. This time for the death of family friend, Odin Lloyd. A week later he was arrested for the murder and released by the Patriots. From there everything seemed to go downhill. Hernandez was indicted in August of 2013 for first-degree murder, followed by a perjury indictment in September of 2013.
April 15, 2015, Hernandez was found guilty of first-degree murder for the murder of Odin Lloyd. His only saving grace was that the death penalty had been abolished in Massachusetts in 1984. A first-degree murder charge in Massachusetts automatically carries a sentence of life in prison without possibility of parole. Hernandez watched his future go up in flames.
Hernandez began serving his life sentence in a maximum-security facility while awaiting trial for the Miami double homicide. April 14, 2017, a jury found Hernandez not guilty in the double homicide, and he was seen crying tears of joy. But even that victory could not overshadow the life sentence he had been given just two years before. At the young age of 27, Hernandez was still facing a life sentence without possibility of parole.
April 19, 2017, just days after being acquitted, Hernandez was found dead in his cell in an apparent suicide. He appeared to have blocked the door to his cell with various objects and then used his bed sheets to hang himself from his window. There was synthetic marijuana in his system. The prison guards say there was no indication that he was suicidal. His attorney states that Hernandez was looking forward to his appeal and a second opportunity to prove his innocence. His untimely death coincides with the Patriots visit to the White House to celebrate their Super Bowl win.
Hernandez leaves behind many questions for his fans, his friends and family, and those affected by his actions. What causes someone with so much talent, potential, and opportunity to make decisions that ultimately destroy everything they have and could’ve gained? What was the turning point in Hernandez’s life and could anything have been done to help him? Is the pressure of the spotlight and the burden of fame just too heavy a cross for some to bear? One can only wonder.