Part of what makes the Aaron Hernandez story so perplexing and intriguing, from people making ends meet to those who will never have to work another day in their lives, is how the former New England Patriots tight end could find himself in a situation that ends with a murder charge.
At 23, Hernandez had what appeared to be a great life. He had a lot to look forward to, and a lot of responsibility too. The Patriots gave him a five-year, $37.5 million contract extension last year. This year, with Wes Welker and Brandon Lloyd gone and Rob Gronkowski's health a concern, Hernandez was going to be a focal part of the Patriots offense. He was already one of the most talented players in the NFL, with the opportunity to become one of the game's superstars.
Here's what he said about the contract extension, referring to Patriots owner Robert Kraft:
“He didn’t need to give me the amount that he gave me, and knowing that he thinks I deserve that, he trusts me to make the right decisions, it means a lot. It means he trusts my character, and the person I am, which means a lot,” Hernandez said last August, according to the Boston Herald. “I have a lot more to give back, and all I can do is play my heart out for them, make the right decisions, and live life as a Patriot.”
Life is more than football, and Hernandez had a fiancee and an eight-month-old baby. Here's what he said about having a child to NESN last November:
“I’m feeling pretty good, and I’m happy. Definitely a life changer,” Hernandez said with an uncontrollable smile. “Every time I come [from] the stadium, I can’t wait to go see her, and she’s a cutie. And basically I can’t wait to go back and look at my daughter.”
“I’m engaged now, and I have a baby. So, it’s just gonna make me think of life a lot differently and doing things the right way,” Hernandez added. “Now, another one is looking up to me. I can’t just be young and reckless Aaron no more. I’m gonna try to do the right things, become a good father and [her] be raised like I was raised.”
Now he is in jail, charged with the murder of Odin Lloyd and being investigated for possible involvement in a 2012 double murder in Boston. The quotes about being indebted to the Patriots for believing in him, and doing things the right way because he had a newborn child, seem to be entirely dishonest.
As Yahoo! Sports' Dan Wetzel pointed out, Hernandez's lack of emotion during his arraignment was striking, and chilling. Hernandez rarely changed expression as charges were announced and Bristol County prosecutor William McCauley spent 20 minutes laying out the case against him.
Hernandez's character has been an issue going back to his college days at Florida.
TMZ tweeted a photo of Hernandez with a gun in his hand, and said the picture was taken in 2009 when Hernandez was still at the University of Florida. TMZ doesn't say how it obtained the photo, and there's no way to verify its authenticity, but it's still not a good look for a person up on a murder charge and five gun-related charges as well.
We'll likely hear many more details about Hernandez's life away from football, before and during the trial. Already there are some less-than-flattering stories about Hernandez, who slid in the draft because of character concerns. One from the Boston Globe said he threatened Wes Welker less than a week after being drafted. Another former teammate spoke out about Hernandez this week.
“I never talk about other guys, but I will say I have never embraced - never believed in - anything Aaron Hernandez stood for,” recently retired Patriots offensive tackle Matt Light told the Dayton Daily News.
The report said Light believed Hernandez "always had his own agenda - and it wasn’t a good one." The Ravens stuck with Ray Lewis when he was charged with murder in 2000 because they believed in him as a person, former Ravens coach Brian Billick said this week. The Patriots, who are well aware of Hernandez's behavior on the job and have as good of a gauge of his character as anyone, cut Hernandez less than two hours after he was arrested. That's pretty telling.
Hernandez will get a chance in court to clear his name, but it's shocking that he finds himself in jail, without a NFL job, locked up from his fiancee and child. For most people, it's hard to fathom how he could fall so far when he had so many reasons to avoid trouble.
Related coverage on Yahoo! Sports:
• Aaron Hernandez void of emotion during arraignment on murder charges
• Release of Aaron Hernandez simply the Patriot way
• Browns rookie Ausar Walcott charged with attempted murder
• Is Tim Tebow a tight end option for the Patriots?