The fall of Aaron Hernandez was at the top of the news most of last week. The former Florida Gator and now former New England Patriot was arrested for allegedly taking the life of semi-pro football player Odin Lloyd, who news reports said was dating his fiancee’s sister. He’s innocent until proven guilty, but Hernandez was arrested for murder and weapons charges.
Hernandez was a blessed man. Last August, the Patriots liked him so much they gave him a $40 million contract. He lives in a $1.7 million house. He is a New England celebrity. The organization believed in him.
Why did he allegedly kill Lloyd, or have him killed? Prosecutors offered that while frequenting a bar, Lloyd was talking to some guys who had previously given Hernandez trouble, and Hernandez wasn’t sure whether he could trust his friend any longer.
Prosecutors detailed evidence that included surveillance camera footage, text messages, and workers who heard the shooting at the industrial park.
Two hours after he was arrested, the Patriots dumped him and released this statement:
“Words cannot express the disappointment we feel knowing that one of our players was arrested as a result of this investigation. We realize that law enforcement investigations into this matter are ongoing. We support their efforts and respect the process. At this time, we believe this transaction is simply the right thing to do.”
We hear about something like this, and the average, law-abiding, man-in-the-street who works hard to pay his bills and raise his family and make a living scratches his head and asks “Why would somebody throw it all away? Why would somebody do something so stupid?”
Hernandez never rose above his past. I caught a few minutes of sports talk on the radio as I was driving last Wednesday afternoon, and the yakkers were saying that Hernandez at this point in his professional life, three years into his NFL career, should have cut ties with old friends and acquaintances of questionable reputation long ago. Once he took the money, he could have run, but he never left his past behind.
One former coach said, “There were always people who were trying to surround themselves with him who weren’t in his best interest … he had a hard time saying no.”
Apparently some NFL teams would not draft Hernandez because they were concerned about possible ties to gangs in his hometown. When you reach this level and make this kind of money and play for an image-conscious organization like the Patriots, saying “goodbye” to any questionable associates who may pull you down is the wise course of action. We have to be careful with whom we hang.
He supposedly pledged to change when his baby was born eight months ago.
“Now, another one is looking up to me,” he said at the time. I can’t just be young and reckless Aaron no more. I’m going to try to do the right things.”
Hernandez obviously kept making bad decisions, starting with choosing some seedy associates. He didn’t have to allow a dispute with his friend escalate to the point of taking another’s life. He didn’t have to, as the prosecutor presented, orchestra the execution of Odin Lloyd.
He obviously didn’t try hard enough. Did Hernandez think he was above the law? Did he live in a fantasy world in which, because of his celebrity status, he thought he could get away with murder? Did he think he was untouchable?
Or did he just lose his temper again? Hernandez learned that fame and fortune can diminish in a heartbeat. One minute you’re a rising star, and the next you’re in handcuffs. He will probably end up as a case study for NFL rookies on the consequences of making poor choices and putting yourself in bad positions.
Hopefully, someone else will learn from Hernandez’s still unfolding story, and will not make the mistakes that Hernandez made.
And maybe Hernandez will learn that actions do have consequences, some of which can ruin your life. He may have learned too little too late.
[Dr. David L. Chancey is pastor, McDonough Road Baptist Church, Fayetteville, Ga. The church family meets at 352 McDonough Road, just past the department of drivers’ services building, and invites you to join them this Sunday for Bible study at 9:45 a.m. and worship at 10:55 a.m. Visit them on the web at www.mcdonoughroad.org.]