Today his former team, the New England Patriots, visited the White House to be feted for their victory in Super Bowl 51. He might have been with his teammates today, instead of alone and hopeless. Five years ago, Aaron Hernandez was a star, and signed a contract extension on August 27, 2012. According to ESPN, “A league source said the extension is for five years and includes a $12.5 million signing bonus, $16 million in guaranteed money, and a maximum value of $40 million in additional money.
“Hernandez, appearing at the Patriots’ annual Charitable Foundation Kickoff Gala in the Putnam Club at Gillette Stadium on Monday night, was clearly thrilled and emotional about the contract extension. ‘I knew it was coming, just cause, when Gronk (Rob Gronkowski) got it, I knew there was a good chance I was next in line,’ he said. ‘Now that it happened, it’s definitely a blessing, and take it in, I’m excited to go on with my life. As soon as we started talking about contracts, I was emotional from that day on,’ he continued. ‘Honestly, it’s hard for me here (at the gala) to stay, keeping my mind off it, and it’s just, like I said, it’s surreal. Probably when I’m done with this conversation I’ll get some tears in my eyes. But it’s real, and it’s an honor.’
“Upon agreeing to the extension, Hernandez made a charitable gesture that Patriots owner Robert Kraft appreciated. ‘One of the touching moments since I’ve known the team — knowing that this is our charitable gala tonight — Aaron came into my office, a little teary-eyed and presented me with a check for $50,000 to go to Myra Kraft Giving Back Fund,’ Kraft said. ‘I said ‘Aaron, you don’t have to do this, you’ve already got your contract.’ And he said ‘No, it makes me feel good and I want to do it.’
“To Kraft, Hernandez’s donation reflected the organization’s desire to have players give back after receiving financial security by playing in the NFL. ‘That made me feel good because part of the thing that we learned early on is that we have a lot of young men who come into this business, and they come from humble financial homes, and part of what we try to do is make them understand is that there is a psychic income involved in giving back both your time and your financial resources, if you can do that,’ he said.”
It was not as if Mr. Hernandez didn’t have positive influences in his life, or confusion about right or wrong. He played college ball for Urban Meyer, with whom he would read the Bible many mornings. His quarterback in college was Tim Tebow. From a USA Today story: “Tim Tebow attempted to keep Aaron Hernandez out of trouble during a 2007 bar squabble while both were playing at the University of Florida, but not even the mild-mannered, Bible-toting quarterback could keep the hot-headed tight end from slugging a Gainesville, Fla., restaurant manager and puncturing his ear drum. Still, after Tebow’s efforts failed, it appears the school or football program might have gotten Hernandez off the hook by reaching a settlement with the manager to keep him from pursuing charges, according to a supplemental investigation report on the altercation obtained by USA TODAY Sports.”
His quarterback with the Patriots was Tom Brady. This write up appears on a NESN website: “After a 2011 game in Denver, the two star quarterbacks spent a few moments chatting about the game and even talking about two of Tebow’s teammates at the University of Florida in Hernandez and linebacker Brandon Spikes. In the encounter, Brady and Tebow exchange some pleasantries before briefly chatting about the two Patriots players.
Brady: “Good game, Tim. You’re having a great year.” Tebow: “Thanks. I appreciate it.” Brady: “Keep it up. Good things happen to good people. Tebow: “I appreciate that.”
Brady: “And I’m trying to watch over Aaron and Brandon.” Tebow: “I appreciate that, too, man. They’re good guys.” Brady: “[Yeah] they’re a lot to handle.” So, aside from Tebow’s clear “appreciation” for just about anything and everything Brady says, it’s interesting to hear Brady not only mention that he was watching over Hernandez but also noting that he and Spikes were a handful. That’s not to say they were necessarily difficult to handle or even a problem, but the comment does seem to carry much more weight now given Hernandez’s murder charge.”
It seems some men who could have been great mentors to Hernandez believed in him, and made an effort to steer him on the right path. But they were not the people whom he chose to be influenced by. He sought the company of drug dealers and petty criminals when he wasn’t with his positive influences. I am sure much will be written about his wasted promise. I read that he wrote John 3:16 on his forehead with a marker before hanging himself. Life is full of uncertainty and contradictions, and Aaron Hernandez’s life was among the most contradictory of all.
Four days ago when I first wrote the above there was even speculation that he was murdered. Today I read that other prisoners knew he was planning to kill himself weeks before he did, as he started giving away everything he had and began coating the floor of his cell with soap, so that if he lost his nerve while hanging he wouldn’t be able to get a grip on the floor. The whole thing is just sad.