Before leaving for vacation Saturday, former Florida head coach Urban Meyer attempted to set the record straight about Aaron Hernandez’s time as a Gator.
The current Ohio State head coach sent the following statement to The Gainesville Sun:
“I just received an email from a friend where there is an accusation of multiple failed drug tests covered up by the Univ. of Florida or the coaching staff,” Meyer wrote in a text to The Sun. “This is absolutely not true. Hernandez was held to the same drug testing policy as every other player.
“He was an athlete at Florida 4-to-7 years ago and there are some comments being made that are not correct. Our staff, myself and our families worked very hard to mentor and guide him. Prayers and thoughts are with the family and friends of the victim. Relating or blaming these serious charges to Univ. of Florida, myself or our staff is wrong and irresponsible.”
One thing that stands out: Meyer said Hernandez was held to the same drug testing policy as ever other player, but doesn’t state what the policy was. The Boston Globe reported that Hernandez failed anywhere between four and six drug tests while at Florida, although Meyer said he only failed one, which resulted in a suspension for the 2008 Hawaii game. To corroborate the Globe’s story, last month Sports Illustrated reported that Hernandez admitted to NFL executives he had failed multiple drug tests while in college. Two other members of the Florida athletic department also have gone on the record saying the reports from NFL scouts were wrong.
Meyer also talked to the Columbus Dispatch about Hernandez’s record at Florida, including a 2007 shooting where Hernandez was questioned as a witness.
Q: What do you recall of Hernandez’s brushes with the law during his time at Florida?
A: Relatively speaking, he had very minor stuff. He was questioned about being a witness (to a shooting), and he had an argument in a restaurant (in which Hernandez allegedly struck an employee in an argument over an unpaid bill), and he was suspended one game (reportedly for a failed marijuana test). Other than that, he was three years a good player. That was it.
Q: In regards to the shooting incident, in which two people in a car were wounded, a police report surfaced that showed Hernandez and teammate Reggie Nelson were questioned but never charged. What do you recall of that episode?
A: I don’t remember his name in (the report). I remember it was about a one-hour discussion. One of my coaches came in and said, “Hey, they’re getting questioned for this.” … I said, “Well, what do I need to do?” And he said, “Nothing. They’re not involved.” And that was it. They weren’t questioned for (doing) the shooting. They were questioned as a witness.”
ESPN reported last week that Hernandez and former Gator Reggie Nelson were initially identified by a witness who later rescinded his statement. The New York Times calculated that 41 of the 121 players on the 2008 championship team have been arrested at some point, either while enrolled at Florida or after leaving the university.
Meyer didn’t elaborate on the USA TODAY report about the University of Florida possibly paying off a bar manager Hernandez struck in the head in 2007.