The Obvious Lesson from Aaron Hernandez: Don’t Waste a Future of Endless Possibilities With Foolishness

Aaron Hernandez listens as the guilty verdict is read during his murder trial at the Bristol County Superior Court in Fall River, Mass. (Photo: Dominick Reuter, Pool)
Aaron Hernandez listens as the guilty verdict is read during his murder trial at the Bristol County Superior Court in Fall River, Mass.
(Photo: Dominick Reuter, Pool)

What a waste. What a ridiculous and senseless waste.

Aaron Hernandez had played in a Super Bowl and signed a $40 million contract extension before his 24th birthday. His future was one of endless possibilities, its only limits his own drive and imagination.

And he threw it all away, ending two lives with one horrific crime.

As the former New England Patriots tight end sits in jail, now a convicted murderer, let his downward spiral be a cautionary tale. For the excesses that have become the birthright of star athletes, and the blanket absolutions when they are not enough. For the unconditional adulation given to those who can run faster, jump higher and throw harder than everybody else.

For the delusion that celebrity status allows for a different set of rules.

“The jury found that he was just a man who committed a brutal murder,” District Attorney Thomas Quinn said after Hernandez was convicted Wednesday of murdering Odin Lloyd. “The fact that he was a professional athlete meant nothing in the end.”

If only someone had delivered that message to Hernandez years ago.

By all accounts, Hernandez was raised in a loving and stable environment. His family may not have had NFL riches, and crime and poverty was no stranger in their Bristol, Conn., community. But his parents were involved, his father particularly close to his sons. He nurtured their athletic talents, preaching the values of hard work and discipline along the way.

The sudden death of his father when Hernandez was 16 devastated him, and set Hernandez on the path that dead-ended in a jail cell. But the blind eye coaches and others turned all those times Hernandez got in trouble did nothing to help.

“These are things that don’t have to happen,” Doug Sheff, the attorney who represents Lloyd’s family, told USA TODAY Sports. “Hopefully, we can all learn from this experience and perhaps reduce the likelihood of this happening in the future.”

Within his first few months at Florida, Hernandez had gotten into a brawl and been questioned about shots that were fired at a car. He was suspended for the 2008 season opener after testing positive for marijuana, and there were whispers of other failed tests.

There was the double murder in Boston in 2012 for which Hernandez now faces charges, and the lawsuit filed by an acquaintance who claimed Hernandez shot him.

But Hernandez led the Gators to a national championship, and helped the Patriots to the Super Bowl in the 2011 season. When someone has that kind of talent, all manner of sins can be forgiven. Or if not forgiven, at least ignored.

Be it Hernandez, Lawrence Phillips, Ray McDonald or Ray Rice, the message is the same: So long as you’re succeeding on the field, it doesn’t matter what you’re doing off the field.

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SOURCE: USA Today – Nancy Armour

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