Hernandez was serving a life sentence for murdering Odin Lloyd in 2013, but just days before his death, he had been acquitted of a double murder in a separate incident. All of this compacts a bewildering end to a bewildering career: an NFL star who seemingly had it all suddenly sitting in a jail cell for life, and ultimately killing himself via a bedsheet attached to a cell window.
We’ve seen sports stars end their own lives in tragic ways in the past. Len Bias overdosed on cocaine and died two days after being selected second overall in the 1986 NBA Draft. Last year, Miami Marlins ace Jose Fernandez died in a boating accident — he was later found to be legally drunk and with cocaine in his system.
But those were unfortunate, one-off situations. Hernandez was completely different. He was a cold-blooded killer and a convicted felon, a man whose once-promising athletic career spiraled into the depths of despair in a manner like we’ve never seen before.
To look at the spiral is unsettling. He made his name at the University of Florida, playing alongside Tim Tebow and winning the John Mackey Award for Most Outstanding Tight End in 2009. Selected by the Patriots in the fourth round of the NFL Draft in 2010, Hernandez soon found himself catching touchdown passes from Tom Brady and playing in Super Bowls, living the NFL dream.
Everything seemed perfect. In 2012, Hernandez signed a contract extension worth $41 million — $50,000 of which he immediately donated to charity. He had a girlfriend, a young child and a multi-million dollar home in the Boston suburbs. From the outside, Hernandez’s life was commendable.
It was anything but that, however. Hernandez lived a double life. He hung out with the wrong people, was rumored to be affiliated with gangs and held grudges that ended violently.
In July 2012, a month before Hernandez signed his contract extension, a drive-by shooting occurred in South Boston when the occupants of an SUV pulled up to a BMW on an overpass and killed the two men, Daniel de Abreu and Safiro Furtado inside.
Prosecutors said it was Hernandez who pulled the trigger. A year later, Hernandez shot and killed Lloyd, a semi-professional football player who Hernandez befriended two years prior after meeting through family friends.
The Patriots released him immediately. He was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. And like that, the once-seemingly perfect life had spiraled into an unimaginable horror story.
Daniel de Abreu is dead. Safiro Furtado is dead. Odin Lloyd. And now, Aaron Hernandez, too. All of this was completely unnecessary. All of this has us asking, “Why?”
It made no sense for Hernandez, whose football career was set up for him on a tee — successful college career, drafted by a top-notch franchise in New England — to go down this path.
It made no sense for a star athlete with a family and a picturesque suburban home to revert to settling scores and throwing away his career by firing bullets. And it made no sense for Hernandez, days after being acquitted of de Abreu and Furtado’s murders, to hang himself with a bedsheet in his prison cell, even jamming the door from the inside to stall the prison guards from potentially stopping him. What could ever drive an athlete who had so much to give it all away?
Eight days ago, Hernandez was beaming in the courtroom before his acquittal at the sight of his fiancee and four-year-old daughter, Avielle. He had a big smile on his face and blew kisses at Avielle as he was led away, according to The Boston Globe.
Less than a week later, Hernandez was dead. He’d leave behind a fiancee, a daughter who will grow up without a father and no closure for anyone — not his family, not the families of his three alleged victims and not anyone who has followed this inexplicable saga.
This, indeed, was a saga unlike any other, at least in sports. Bias didn’t mean to overdose on cocaine and end his life before even stepping foot on an NBA court. Fernandez didn’t mean to crash his boat that night and cut short a lengthy baseball career.
But Aaron Hernandez chose this. He chose to murder. He chose to throw away his life and his promising future in the NFL so he could settle a few scores.
And the unfortunate thing is, we will never know why.
Eric He is a sophomore studying print and digital journalism. He is also the sports editor of the Daily Trojan. His column, “Grinding Gears,” ran on Fridays.