Keith Bedford/The Boston Globe

What could have and should have been

Forgive me if I am saddened a bit for the news today. Not for a man that was convicted of murder, but for a man at still a young age that had so much going for him and maybe life just threw too many wrenches at him to take advantage. That life ended today when Aaron Hernandez reportedly hung himself in his prison cell and died.

The sudden change in good news versus bad news for Hernandez maybe should have been expected given the way things had gone for the young man over the last several years of his life.

A high school All-American tight end out of Bristol, Connecticut, Hernandez was the younger brother of UConn star quarterback D.J. Hernandez back in 2006 when his father Dennis died unexpectedly from an infection formed from routine hernia surgery.

Hernandez was said to be very close to his father and the untimely death triggered a fury inside the young man according to reports from his mother. Still, Hernandez would seemingly move on.

His stature as a high school football player had grown a great deal and as all of the tragic news of his father’s death was happening Aaron was being recruited by big time programs around the country and his commitment to play football at UConn with his older brother was fading.

The University of Florida got in the picture with Hernandez and with Urban Meyer at the helm and the ability to offer a wide open offense and in a football conference known to push players into the NFL, Hernandez saw a chance to change things for the better.

Just months after his father’s death, Hernandez jumped at the chance to play for the Gators and switch his allegiance from the home state Huskies.

We caught up with Hernandez on the day he committed to the Gators for this exclusive video back in April of 2016, a few months before his senior year of high school. As you can see, he seemed to be a soft hearted and happy young man with bright thoughts on the future ahead.

I remember catching back up with Hernandez at the US Army All-American Bowl in San Antonio and although I can’t find the video anywhere, we had him interview two other Army Bowl participants Deonte Thompson and Major Wright. Neither were committed Gators at the time, but Hernandez was poking at them in fun to get them to join him at Florida. All three five-star prospects would sign with the Gators in February.

During his time at Florida there was never any unsavory news about him that was made public. He was suspended once for what was believed to be a violation of the school’s drug policy, but that could never be confirmed. But that was about it.

However, there was an underlying current of worry with Hernandez.

As I remember going to practices and watching players leave, one thing I remember vividly during his second and third year on campus is him leaving every day side by side with assistant coach John Hevesy. The two had grown close in his time on campus, but there was evidently more to it. Hevesy was ‘assigned’ to watch over Hernandez because of his off-the-field actions that were known.

Still, the public (including myself) was pretty unaware of what was going on. Hernandez would conduct interviews and be the same kid you saw in the video above.

We know now that things weren’t as they seemed with the young man.

Just days after signing a 40 million dollar contract with the New England Patriots of the NFL, Hernandez was charged and eventually convicted in the murder of Odin Lloyd for reasons none of us can comprehend.

On trial last week for the killing of two strangers, Hernandez was acquitted on Friday of the double murder and was seen with tears in his eyes and celebrating from a distance with his young daughter and wife who were in the courtroom.

A few days later and his life has ended. His lawyers and family are shocked and believe there was malice involved. We don’t know the true answer to that just yet.

It was never easy for Hernandez. Life threw a lot of bumps in the road for the young man. He certainly deliberately headed for some of those holes, but tragedy seemed always near whether of his own doing or not.

It certainly wasn’t the guy I saw when I interviewed him in the video below 11 years ago and it is a tragedy in its own of what could have been for a promising young career and life.




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