By Brendan Smyth
Aaron Hernandez, the former tight-end of the University of Florida and New England Patriots, and convicted murderer in the first-degree, was found dead in his jail cell on April 19th, 2017. According to the police report, Hernandez died of an apparent suicide. He was found hanging by his bedsheets from his cell window with the well-known bible verse “John 3:16” written on his forehead. Three suicide notes were also found by his side.
Hernandez was a star tight-end at the University of Florida from 2007 to 2010. After winning a National Championship in 2009, and the John Mackey Award, which is given annually to the nation’s best tight-end, Hernandez decided to forgo his senior season and enter the NFL draft at just 20 years old. Hernandez was drafted 118th overall by the New England Patriots in the 2010 Draft (Mike Reiss, ESPN). His draft stock fell after Hernandez admitted to marijuana use during the NFL Combine. Drafting Rob Gronkowski in the third round of the same draft, Tom Brady and the New England Patriots gained two assets that would give the rest of the NFL nightmares for the following seasons.
The former college standout was the type of player that could make Bill Belichick drool. Built like a tight end, with the athleticism of a wide receiver, he was a key component of spreading out the defense, allowing other receivers to find openings to make plays. Hernandez could line up in the slot, outside the numbers, or even in the backfield as a blocker or to catch a shovel pass. As a Patriot, Hernandez had 175 receptions for 1,956 yards and 18 touchdowns (NFL.com). Hernandez helped the team reach Super Bowl XLVI in 2011 against the New York Giants. He has a team high 8 receptions for 67 yards and a touchdown, but the Giants won 21-17 (ProFootballReference.com).
In June of 2013, reports came out about Hernandez having some form of involvement in the murder of semi-pro football player Odin Lloyd. Lloyd was a close friend of Hernandez’s and was dating the sister of Hernandez’s fiancée. On June 26th, just five days after North Attleboro Police searched his house for evidence, Aaron Hernandez was arrested for the murder of Lloyd. Just 90 minutes after the arrest, he was released by the Patriots. On September 6th, he was arraigned and pleaded not-guilty to first-degree murder. However, Hernandez was found guilty on April 15th of 2015, and sentenced to life in prison without parole (USA Today). Still, the former Patriot tight-end claimed his innocence. In April of 2015, Hernandez was charged with murder again, this time for the double-murder of Daniel Correia and Safiro Furtado, who were both shot to death in Boston’s South End in 2012. It is believed that Hernandez killed Odin Lloyd because he knew the former tight-end committed these murders, and was planning on going to the police. However, Hernandez was found not-guilty on April 14th, 2017 (CNN). A picture of Hernandez blowing a kiss to his 5 year old daughter after the verdict reading was seen on the covers of numerous newspapers across the country. In a shocking turn of events, Hernandez was found dead in his jail cell on April 19th, just days after the verdict.
While many question why Hernandez would take his own life just days after being found not-guilty for a double murder, there is a motive for this act. Hernandez died during the appeal process of his case. According to Massachusetts State law, Hernandez’s 2013 conviction for the first-degree murder of Odin Lloyd is now void, labeling him a free man. This gives Hernandez’s family the opportunity to collect the money owed to Hernandez from his $40 million contract extension. As defined in the collective bargaining agreement between the NFL and its players, Hernandez’s family and the Patriots will present a case to an arbitrator in a nonpublic meeting with a final decision to be made by the arbitrator (Lester Munson, ESPN). This process is likely to begin and conclude by the end of 2017.
Bill Belichick was asked to describe the story of Aaron Hernandez in one word. He chose the word “tragic” (Atlanta Journal Constitution). No one will truly know what Hernandez could have been as an NFL player if he was able to move on from his dangerous past, but many would guess that Hernandez would’ve accomplished great things. Young fans of the sport learned a valuable lesson from this tragedy. You can work hard to build a great life for yourself and you’re family, but one mistake could take all of it away. Hernandez had set himself up for a successful life. He signed a $40 million contract extension just one year before the murder of Odin Lloyd. Coming from a rough childhood in which he abused drugs and surrounded himself with murderous gang members, he had the chance to escape this life and move on. Unfortunately, the former NFL tight-end could not shake his past, causing him to lose everything he built for himself, and ultimately his life.
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Analyst, Lester MunsonLegal. “Why the Patriots Could Owe Money to Aaron Hernandez.” ESPN. ESPN Internet Ventures, 21 Apr. 2017. Web. 24 Apr. 2017.
Ap. “Aaron Hernandez Found Guilty of First-degree Murder.” USA Today. Gannett Satellite Information Network, 15 Apr. 2015. Web. 20 Apr. 2017.
Culpepper, Julia Kate. “Bill Belichick Called Hernandez Case ‘tragic’ a Week before Suicide.” The Atlanta Journal Constitution. Ajc. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 Apr. 2017.
Levenson, Eric. “Aaron Hernandez Found Not Guilty of Double Murder.” CNN. Cable News Network, 19 Apr. 2017. Web. 24 Apr. 2017.
“Super Bowl XLVI – New York Giants vs. New England Patriots – February 5th, 2012.” Pro-Football-Reference.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 Apr. 2017.