PHILADELPHIA — Hindsight will eventually confirm football was the one oasis in Aaron Hernandez’s troubled life.
Hernandez’s personal shortcomings were apparent dating back to his days at the University of Florida. The persistent marijuana use, the inability to control his temper, and his “friends” from Bristol, Conn, the kind of undesirables who made the coaches in Gainesville and around the NFL nervous.
Hernandez’s obvious flaws were enough to turn a first-round talent into a fourth-round draft pick by the New England Patriots back in 2010.
One NFL scout revealed his team’s pre-draft file on Hernandez on Thursday to the Boston Globe. It read: “Self-esteem is quite low; not well-adjusted emotionally, not happy, moods unpredictable, not stable, doesn’t take much to set him off, but not an especially jumpy guy.”
J.D. Salinger and John Steinbeck couldn’t have foreshadowed any better.
The denouement of Hernandez’s story has yet to be written but the storm clouds have amassed on the horizon and they seem capable of unleashing an F5 tornado on the Patriots’ star and those around him.
That’s of little concern, though, to the family of 27-year-old Odin Lloyd, who was found shot in the head Monday in an industrial park about a mile from Hernandez’s home in affluent North Attleborough.
Police are currently investigating Hernandez’s possible role in the execution style killing and things remain fluid but virtually nothing is pointing in a positive direction for Hernandez.
Hernandez was seen at Lloyd’s home in Dorchester the night of the killing before he, two other men, and Lloyd were seen together at a Boston bar. The entire party left in a car driven by Hernandez and police sources claim there is video evidence of Hernandez and two other men wearing hooded sweatshirts walking into Hernandez’s home within minutes of neighbors hearing gunshots between 3 a.m. and 3:30 a.m. Monday morning.
You do the math — four men got into the car in Boston and three arrived back at the Hernandez home.
There are explanations that could point toward Hernandez’s innocence but those begin to dry up when you understand Hernandez intentionally destroyed his own surveillance system before state police arrived at the home on Tuesday. He also had his lawyers turn over his crushed cell phone, and hired a cleaning service to scrub his mansion on Monday.
Flout all the conspiracy theories you want but even the most ardent Hernandez supporters will admit those aren’t the types of things innocent people think about doing.
Intent and likely directed by his legal representation to keep up appearances on Thursday, Hernandez went about his business, driving to Gillette Stadium before being asked to leave by Patriots’ staff, who were not about to feed into any media frenzy because the Governor of Massachusetts, Deval Patrick, was scheduled to speak at a manufacturing summit on site.
A trip to the gas station and a drive to downtown Boston for meeting with his lawyers followed in what became a surreal scene, 19 years to the week choppers followed O.J. Simpson as he tried to flee after his was accused of killing his wife Nicole and Ronald Goldman.
Hernandez better getting used to being the pariah.
CtyoSport, which used Hernandez as a spokesman for its Muscle Milk line of supplements, was the first domino to fall on Friday.
“In light of the investigation involving Aaron Hernandez, CytoSport is terminating its endorsement contract with Mr. Hernandez, effective immediately,” the company said in a statement.
Hernandez should consider himself lucky if his problems stop there.
The best-case scenario and the only one that can help Hernandez at this point remains a loyalty defense. Normally an admirable trait it’s a twisted one here if he is bent on protecting “friends” who committed this kind of crime. And make no mistake, even if that proves to be the case, obstruction of justice is still a very serious charge, especially in a homicide investigation.
More so, all this speaks to a deep lack of respect for just about everyone caught up in this whether it be the Patriots organization, the NFL as a whole or obviously Odin Lloyd.
Because people need answers, expect all the normal speculation if this ends as badly as it seems to be going. The concussion crowd will point to all the collisions tight ends go through on a weekly basis, while both sides of the gun debate will be ready with their myopic logic. Those who dislike the NFL will decry the violent culture of the game and what it fosters.
Apologists might point to Hernandez’s teen years when he lost father at age 16.
“It was a rough process, and I didn’t know what to do for him,” His mother told USA Today in 2009. “He would rebel. It was very, very hard, and he was very, very angry. He wasn’t the same kid, the way he spoke to me. The shock of losing his dad, there was so much anger.”
The NFL will kick off its 16th Rookie Symposium in Ohio this Sunday, something designed to introduce the 2013 NFL Draft class to life in the NFL prior to the rookies reporting to training camps next month.
It is supposed to emphasize “the sport’s legacy, tradition of character and leadership, as well as social and professional responsibility.” Instead they should rip up the syllabus for the four-day orientation and talk about Hernandez, a 23-year-old man all the rookies can relate too.
Professional sports is filled with underachievers. Guys with unbelievable talent that throw it away on vices ranging from to women to drugs to plain old-fashioned hubris. Hernandez rarely underachieved on the field. Off it, however, he has failed himself and so many others. He is now being portrayed as a loose cannon and at the bare minimum, an accessory to murder.
I’m not sure immaturity qualifies as a vice but if it does, Hernandez should be reserving time at the next meeting with the other 12-steppers intent on turning their lives around.
Meanwhile, this year’s rookies should look at him as a cautionary tale — you’re professionals now — act like it.