April 19th, 2017.
The day the Super Bowl LI champions New England Patriots are set to be honored at the White House after the incredible comeback back in February.
It was going to be a day of reminiscing on the game, smiles, laughs and probably even some selfies with President Donald Trump.
It probably still will be.
But in the early-morning hours of April 19th, 2017, a bigger news story broke regarding a former New England Patriots star – the tight end that had the world in his hands at just 23-years-old with a bright, lucrative future ahead of him.
Aaron Hernandez, who was convicted of killing Odin Lloyd in 2013 and acquitted of the double-murder of Daniel de Abreu and Safiro Furtado just last week, was found hanged in his jail cell just after 3:00 a.m.
You can call him a coward. You can say he took the easy way out. You may not have even wanted to ever hear his name again after 2013. Honestly, neither did I.
But I became so enamored with the story revolving around Hernandez in 2013. I drove past his house daily (I lived five minutes from him) to see nothing but a sea of media surrounding his North Attleboro, MA home.
I once loved everything about number 81. Watching him on the field was something special because he was so talented. He and Rob Gronkowski made one hell of a team. Even under the circumstances, anyone will admit Hernandez was phenomenal on the field.
It’s understandable why people have little to no sympathy for the former tight end. He’s a convicted murderer and many believe even though he was acquitted, was the trigger man in the 2012 slayings of the two men.
It’s easy to say he was a thug – that he was a low-life who had no regard for anyone. But if you take 10 minutes and read Michael LeBrecht II’s Sports Illustrated article pertaining to Hernandez’s brother Jonathan, and just how much his life changed because of the actions involving his younger brother, maybe your mindset will change.
In the wake of all of this, I have turned to this feature and I will continuously go back to it because it doesn’t focus solely on Hernandez, but the impact of what he was accused of doing had on his family.
And that’s what people seem to forget.
You don’t need to feel any sense of remorse for Hernandez, I most certainly don’t. I feel remorse for his brother, his mom, who, as stated in the SI feature, blamed herself for the unwinding of her son. A mom who will probably blame herself for the rest of her life for her son’s death.
He has a four-year-old daughter who will never know who he is. She’ll learn about her dad in school and on the internet. The only memories she will have of him, if she even remembers at all, will be waving to her dad inside a court room while he was on trial for a double-murder.
Let me make this clear: I do not feel any remorse for Hernandez. I do not feel bad or sorry for him. He made the conscious choice to live the life he did.
His brother changed his life drastically. He wasn’t getting job offers because of who Aaron was, not based on who Jonathan was. He changed his career completely from a coach to a roofer and had to start fresh at 30-years-old. He even dropped being called D.J.
There are many theories surrounding the suicide – some saying it was a guilty conscience and not being able to live with his demons. Others say he took the easy way out because he didn’t want to spend the rest of his life behind bars.
Another theory stated he killed himself because the conviction of the Lloyd murder would be voided and Hernandez wouldn’t be a “convicted murderer” and his family will receive his pension.
The truth is we will probably never know, but we can speculate.
Do I think Hernandez is a coward? No.
Do I think he took the easy way out and made a permanent decision on temporary feelings? Yes.
Because Hernandez was acquitted from the 2012 double-murder, this opened the door for him to appeal the 2015 conviction of the 2013 murder and possibly get that overturned.
But maybe he didn’t care about the possibility of being a “free man.”
So much of your life can change from 23-years-old to 27-years-old.You do a lot of growing up and maturing during those years.
It’s easy to reflect back on your life and see where you went wrong and how badly you wish you could take something back or wish you had gone about something differently.Maybe it all came full-circle for him.
Maybe Hernandez was thinking how much he screwed up his life when he was a “young and dumb” kid who decided to get mixed up with the wrong people and never truly found his way, despite having his older brother to look up to.
Maybe Hernandez finally found some sort of emotion or some sort of feelings that were just too much for him to overcome.
Maybe he did kill de Abreu and Furtado and felt guilty for their families because now they’ll never have justice.
Again, we can speculate, but we may never know the truth.
His reaction in the court room when the jury declared he was not guilty was essentially the first sign of emotion we had seen from Hernandez aside from smiling at his daughter.
Much like a lot of Patriots Nation, Hernandez was one of my favorite players. There is no doubt he was fun to watch on the field, catching touchdown after touchdown and celebrating with Tom Brady and Gronk after each one.
What I liked most about the former tight end, though, was that (I thought) he overcame a lot in his life. He didn’t have the best childhood, both of his parents had been arrested and his father suddenly passed away in 2006.
And I thought football was his outlet for everything – that football was what Hernandez turned to. What I thought was even crazier was that we are the same age – and overcame a rough upbringing to turn his life around and become a multi-millionaire NFL star.
Boy did he have a lot of people fooled.
After he was arrested in 2013, I thought to myself, “To have the life he did at 23 and to throw it all away blows my mind. So many 23-year-olds would love to have that life.”
I know Hernandez chose the people he associated with. I know Hernandez chose to be mixed up with the life he had. Once again, I don’t feel sorry for him.
I feel sorry for all of those involved – the family of Hernandez and the families of the victims. But not for Hernandez himself.
He had the potential to be something huge. He could have been with the Patriots at the White House today. He could have been there with them after Super Bowl XLIX.
He and Gronk could have been breaking records, dancing in the end zones and celebrating wildly in the offseason.
But he made the choice to lead a double-life and destroy the families of his victims.
Think of his death what you will. Call it cowardly or say he was selfish. But this just goes to show that no one, not even a big-name, multi-millionaire NFL tight end for one of the best teams in the league, is invincible.
It shows having millions of dollars, a beautiful house, the potential to win multiple Super Bowls, a daughter and millions of fans may prove to not be satisfying enough for someone like Hernandez.
Because it clearly wasn’t enough.