Aaron Hernandez and Fatherhood

The ex-Patriots tight end is on trial for murder the same week his old team plays for yet another NFL championship.

By Robert Moeller Published on February 5, 2015

The New England Patriots beat the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XLIX in one of the most highly anticipated championship match-ups in recent NFL history. The Pats have an outstanding, freakishly good tight end named Rob Gronkowski on their squad. They used to have another outstanding, freakishly good tight end by the name of Aaron Hernandez.

Last week the former played in the biggest game of his life. Last week the latter was on trial for his.

From The Associated Press:

FALL RIVER, Mass. (AP) — Aaron Hernandez once seemed to be a man with a bright future. At age 23 he had a Super Bowl appearance under his belt and a $40 million contract as a star tight end with the New England Patriots. He and his fiancee had started a family, living in a mansion in the Boston suburbs with their 8-month-old daughter.

This week, prosecutors will paint a different picture of Hernandez: they will portray him as a killer who orchestrated the shooting of semiprofessional football player Odin Lloyd.

The story of the rise and fall of Aaron Hernandez fascinates me. From All-American and NCAA football champion under the tutelage of Urban Meyer at the University of Florida to the hallowed, hoodie-filled halls of Bill Belichick’s Patriots in Massachusetts, Hernandez has played for some of the best coaches on the planet. His physical prowess was undeniable. He had money. He was engaged. He had a baby girl.

And then he allegedly shot (or helped those who did shoot) a man who was dating his fiancee’s sister over a spilled drink in a night club.

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How did it come to this? What were the key events along the way that helped shape and form the psyche of an alleged killer?

The most interesting, in-depth profile of Hernandez that I have come across in the past 18 months since the fateful night was penned by Paul Solotaroff over at Rolling Stone. I know what you are thinking: the same Rolling Stone that recently “stepped in it” re: the University of Virginia rape scandal? Yes, that same Rolling Stone. What can I tell you — the Hernandez article is enthralling!

One key piece of the emotional and psychological puzzle for constructing Aaron Hernandez’s track-record of rule-breaking and violence comes at the point when the reader learns of the untimely death of Hernandez’s beloved father, Dennis.

Heartsick and furious, Aaron seemed to implode. “He would rebel,” [his mother] Terri told USA Today in an interview three years later. “He wasn’t the same kid, the way he spoke to me. The shock of losing his dad, there was so much anger.”

Aaron Hernandez transformed from diligent, hard-working goof-off to brooding, chip-on-my-shoulder thug in a matter of months. His mother, who had been dating someone on the side before his father’s passing, brought her boyfriend into their home almost immediately after Aaron’s dad died. One can only imagine that this compounded the already volatile matter exponentially in the heart and mind of young Hernandez. His father had been his close friend, mentor and athletic trainer. When he was gone, so was the safety net that had kept Aaron in check. From there on out, things were never the same.

Urban Meyer supposedly “tried to help” the All-American player during Aaron’s time at Florida, but every time Hernandez landed himself in trouble, Coach Meyer swept it under the rug. What help is that in molding a teenager into a man?

Bill Belichick is one NFL coach known for rehabilitating — or at least attempting to rehabilitate — “troubled” players like Randy Moss. Hernandez apparently talked the talk when he was around the Patriots coaches and management. But by this point in his development, the lifestyle of gun violence and Friday night fights at a dance club and allegiance to fellow gang members (as if they were family) had taken root. Hernandez lived this double life for a while, but eventually things caught up to him.

Hernandez lost a dad and filled those emotional needs with terrible friends and accolades from his athletic achievements. This script has been written before. And it will be written again. Sons needs their fathers. All of the progressive, academic claptrap in the world cannot change what the rest of us know by instinct and experience. Aaron Hernandez made moral choices as an adult that cannot be swept aside simply because he “had a tough childhood.”

But you’d have to be a callous troll not to wish, for his sake and the sake of the young man who was killed, that Dennis Hernandez had lived just a few years longer.

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