Aaron Hernandez went from being drafted to the New England Dynasty in 2010 to being sentenced to life in prison for 1st-degree murder just 3 years later. Hernandez had one of the brightest futures and could have possibly become one of the best tight ends in the league. Unfortunately, he couldn’t let go of the “gangster lifestyle” he wanted to live. With one of the craziest careers in recent history from being drafted at 20 years old to be a multimillionaire by 22 to being convicted of first-degree murder at 25 to committing suicide at the age of 27, we give you a timeline of Aaron Hernandez.
Before the NFL & Troubled History
Hernandez first committed to the University of Connecticut, with hopes of playing with his older brother D.J. Hernandez, who played quarterback for the Huskies. Things would change when Florida Gators’ head coach Urban Meyers flew to Connecticut to convince Hernandez to play for the Gators telling him he saw great NFL potential in him. Meyer even convinced the principal of Hernandez’s high school to let him graduate a semester early so Hernandez could move to Florida early and allow him to learn the playbook.
During Hernandez’s freshman year with the Gators’, he had little to no playtime as he only played in 3 games where he started in all of them. Recording only 9 receptions for 151 yards and a pair of touchdowns; he showed early impressions. The start of his sophomore season did not go as planned as Hernandez was benched in the season opener for failing a drug test just a week before the game.
The starting tight end Cornelius Ingram would go down with an injury early in the season which was a blessing for Hernandez as he was the next man up and took full advantage of the opportunity. He caught 34 passes for 381 yards, 5 touchdowns and was a big part in Florida’s 2009 BCS National Championship win; as he led in reception yards with 57 yards on 5 catches. During his Junior year, Hernandez became a favorite target for quarterback Tim Tebow. He led the Gators’ in receptions for the year with 68 receptions going for 850 receiving yards, and 5 touchdowns. That earned himself the John Mackey Award an annual award that is given out to the nation’s best tight end. Hernandez, also was selected to First-Team All-Southeastern Conference, having the best season of his college career and looking NFL ready.
Although, Hernandez was performing well and was playing up to Meyers’s expectation, Meyers wanted to give Hernandez the boot from the team. He was tired of Hernandez and his use of chronic marijuana, but kept him on the team after Tebow gave an appeal. Meyers would go on to tell Hernandez, his junior year would be his final season for Florida. He wouldn’t be welcomed back for his senior year. This resulted in Hernandez declaring for the 2010 NFL Draft.
Priors of violence:
On April 28, 2007, Hernandez and Florida teammate Tim Tebow went to a bar in Gainesville, Florida where Hernandez would refuse to pay for drinks they had ordered. While Hernandez was being escorted out of the bar for refusing to pay he sucker-punched an employee rupturing his eardrum. The police were called to the scene, and recommended the employee should charge Hernandez with battery, but the incident was settled out of court with a deferred prosecution agreement.
On September 30, 2007, a man approached a vehicle containing three men inside, firing five shots inside the vehicle while the vehicle was stopped at a traffic light in Gainesville. One man was shot in the back of the head, and another man was shot in the arm. Both recovered from their injuries the back-seat passenger was unharmed and was able to give police a description of the suspect. He described the shooter as a “Hawaiian” or “Hispanic” male that had a lot of tattoos. When he was given a list of photos who matched the description, he pointed out Hernandez. Police discussed with the head coach of the Florida Gators Urban Meyers’s personal assistant they wanted to see Hernandez and two other players.
The two other players were cooperative with the police, but when it was time to talk to Hernandez he invoked his right to counsel and refused to have any discussions with the police. No charges would be filed as there wasn’t enough evidence. Due to Hernandez’s arrest, in the future police in Florida were determined to find his involvement in the shooting. It was later concluded by Detective Tom Mullins, that Hernandez was not the man who pulled the trigger because, another witness spoke up and said the suspect looked to be an African-American male with cornrows. The only reason why the victim suspected Hernandez of the shooting was because, they exchanged a few words in a bar earlier that day,
2010: 4th-round draft pick by the New England Patriots
Hernandez’s draft stock took a huge fall when teams had concerns with his many off the field issues during his collegiate career at Florida and there were rumors he had failed multiple drug tests. Along with those issues, Hernandez had recorded the lowest possible score in social maturity in the pre-draft report. There were concerns with his character . Some teams even took him off their entire draft board.
That didn’t stop the Patriots from taking a chance on Hernandez as they drafted him with the 113th selection in the 2010 draft, making him the second tight end drafted. The Patriots previously took tight end Rob Gronkowski the day before in the second round and looked to have a good battle for the starting position. On June 8, 2010, Hernandez signed a 4-year $ 2.37 million contract with New England which also included a $20,000 signing.
Hernandez made his first career start during the Patriots season opener but was only in for a couple of snaps as he recorded 1 reception for 45 yards. The following week, Hernandez recorded a season-high 6 receptions for 101 receiving yards in a 28-14 win over the divisional rival Jets, becoming the youngest player since 1960 to have more than 100 receiving yards in a game. In a matchup against the Packers, Hernandez was a big part in the 31-27 win with 4 receptions for 31 yards and 2 touchdowns, earning himself Pepsi NFL Rookie of the Week for the first time. Hernandez, would go on to miss the final two weeks of the season due to a hip injury. He finished up his rookie season recording 45 receptions for 563 yards and 6 touchdowns.
Hernandez started in his first career playoff game vs the Jets in the AFC Divisional round where he would go on to catch a pass for four yards in a 28-21 loss.
2011: Rising year
Before the start of the 2011 season, Hernandez decided to have surgery on his hip after being injured during week 15 of the 2010 season, but was ready to go by training camp. With new addition Chad Johnson to the patriots, Hernandez reportedly gave Johnson the jersey No.85 as it was his then legal name Ochocinco (85 in Spanish) as a kind gesture. It was then reported Hernandez told Johnson he could have the number for $75,000 but Johnson would respond with a $50,000 offer which was accepted by Hernandez.
By the end of training camp, Hernandez was named the second-string tight end behind Gronkowski and would line up as an H-back. In the season opener, Hernandez went for 103 yards and caught a touchdown in a 38-24 win over the Dolphins. The next week he would go on to have another impressive game, hauling in 7 receptions for 62 yards and a touchdown, but left the game early in the third quarter with an injury. It was later revealed after the game Hernandez had suffered a sprain MCL and was forced to be held out of the next two games. Hernandez would return, and look like he didn’t miss a beat as he continued his impressive play for the Patriots and in a matchup vs the Broncos, he caught a season-high 9 receptions for 129 yards and 1 touchdown.
Hernandez would go on to be named as a Pro-Bowl alternative many fans and analysts believed he was robbed of a starting position as they felt Antonio Gates did not deserve it. By the end of the regular season, Hernandez recorded a career-high 79 receptions for 910 yards and 7 touchdowns in 14 games starting in 12 of them. Hernandez ranked 5th amongst tight ends in the league in receptions and 15th amongst all players in the league. Hernandez and Gronkowski set NFL records for touchdowns, reception, and yardage for a duo tight end as they combined for 24 touchdowns, 2,237 receiving yards, and 169 receptions.
During the AFC Divisional round vs the Broncos, Hernandez recorded 4 receptions for 55 yards and 1 touchdown playing a part in the Patriots 45-10 win. The next week Hernandez recorded 7 passes for 66 yards in the AFC Championship where the Patriots would go on to win 23-20. In the Superbowl Hernandez would go on to record 8 catches for 67 yards and 1 touchdown, but his contribution wasn’t enough as the Patriots would go on to lose 21-17 to the Giants.
2012: Final Season
Before the start of the 2012 season, the Patriots signed Hernandez to a 5-year deal worth a $39.58 million contract extension, with a $12.5 signing bonus which was the highest by a tight end in league history.
Hernandez had a downfall year when it came to stats. He played only 10 games, the fewest in his career and failed to get over 100 receiving yards in a single game. Hernandez suffered a high ankle sprain during week 2 which caused him to miss a good amount of time giving Gronkowski the spotlight to take over. His best game was during Monday Night Football where he caught 8 passes for 58 yards and 2 touchdowns as the Patriots crushed the Texans in a 42-14 win. Finishing up the regular season recording 51 receptions for 483 yards and 5 touchdowns as he was beginning to find his groove perfect for the Patriots as they headed to the playoffs.
In the AFC Divisional Round Hernandez recorded 6 receptions for 85 yards as the Patriots cruised by the Texans once again in a 41-28 win and were one win away from the Super Bowl. In the AFC Championship Hernandez recorded 9 receptions for 83 yards in a 28-13 loss to the Ravens, this would be the final game Hernandez ever played in the NFL.
2013: Arrested for 1st-degree murder
On June 18, 2013 police were sent to search Hernandez’s house as part of an investigation in connection to the shooting and death of friend Odin Lloyd. Lloyd was found dead from bullet wounds suffered to his back and chest just a couple miles from Hernandez’s house. After his arrest, the Patriots soon released Hernandez from the team resulting in him forfeiting his 2015-18 salaries. The Patriots organization agreed on releasing Hernandez if he was arrested on any connection to the case or charged with anything they would release him from the team.
On June 26, 2013, Hernandez was charged with first-degree as well as five gun-related charges. Later on, two other men would go on to be arrested with a connection to the murder both were believed to be friends of Hernandez. On August 22, 2013, Hernandez was indicted by a grand jury for the murder of Odin Lloyd, Hernandez would go on to plead not guilty on September 6, 2013. On April 15, 2015, Hernandez was found guilty of murder in the first degree and was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole along with being found guilty of five firearm charges.
On April 19, 2017 correction officers found Hernandez hanging by his bedsheets from the window in his cell at Souza-Baranowski Correctional Center. Hernandez was transported to UMass Memorial Hospital-Leominster where he would be pronounced dead. Shampoo was found covering the floor, while cardboard was wedged under the door of the cell, along with drawings in blood on the walls. Hernandez was smoking K2 within the thirty hours before committing suicide which is a drug synthetic cannabinoid that can alter a person’s mental state.
At the request of the Hernandez family, his brain was released to Boston University to be studied for signs of chronic traumatic encephalopathy also known as CTE. CTE is a progressive degenerative disease found in people who have a severe blow or repeated blows to the head. Researchers would go on to diagnose Hernandez stage 3 of 4 for CTE and would go on to describe Hernandez’s brain as a classic case of pathology.