Who Is Aaron Hernandez?

Zach Kruse@@zachkruse2Senior Analyst IJune 21, 2013

SEATTLE, WA - OCTOBER 14:  Tight end Aaron Hernandez #81 of the New England Patriots looks on prior to the game against the Seattle Seahawks at CenturyLink Field on October 14, 2012 in Seattle, Washington.  (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

The career of former New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez has taken a drastic turn for the worse. 

Following an arrest by Massachusetts State Police on Wednesday morning, Hernandez was charged with first-degree murder and five other gun-related charges during his arraignment in Attleboro District Court. 

The Patriots released the tight end shortly after news broke of his arrest. 

Wednesday's events capped off a whirlwind week of investigation and speculation surrounding the murder of semi-professional football player Odin Lloyd. All along, Hernandez has been a central part of the case.

Once a rising star for the Patriots, Hernandez now faces uncertainty about the future of his football career.

His story, at least so far, begins and ends in the New England area. 

Hernandez was born in Bristol, Conn., where he spent the duration of his young life. According to his University of Florida profile, he starred as a football player at Bristol Central High School.

After a senior season in which he caught 67 passes for 1,807 yards and 24 touchdowns, Hernandez was named the top tight end recruit in the nation by both Scout.com and Rivals.com. He took home Gatorade Player of the Year honors in the state of Connecticut while also setting state records for career touchdown catches (31) and single-season receiving yards and touchdowns. 

As expected, the offers from colleges came pouring in. 

While originally committed to the University of Connecticut, Hernandez decommitted and signed on with Urban Meyer and the Florida Gators. According to his Florida profile, Hernandez made the decision after Meyer and his staff were "there for him" following the passing of his father, which occurred suddenly during the early portion of his recruiting process.

With the Gators, Hernandez developed into a dangerous weapon for one of the most successful college football programs in recent history.

After playing primarily in a reserve role as a true freshman, Hernandez became a bigger part of the offense as a sophomore. Over 13 games and 11 starts, he collected 34 receptions for 381 yards and five scores for the one-loss Gators. He led the team with five catches for 57 yards in the BCS National Championship Game against Oklahoma, which Florida went on to win. 

His collegiate evolution came full circle as a junior, when Hernandez caught 68 passes for 850 yards and five touchdowns. He became the first Florida tight end to win the Mackey Award, which is given annually to the nation's top tight end, and he was named a consensus first-team All-American. 

He declared for the NFL draft shortly after his junior season. 

Though his collegiate performance was elite, Hernandez had his share of off-the-field troubles prior to entering the professional ranks. 

According to Greg Bedard and Pete Thamel of Sports Illustrated, Hernandez admitted before the 2010 NFL draft that he used marijuana while at Florida. Albert Breer, then of The Boston Globe, reported that Hernandez failed several drug tests in college. One source close to Hernandez said that his drug use was "a problem."

NFL teams also had worries about Hernandez's inner circle, especially the one that formed while still in Bristol. 

Ties to drugs and gangs took Hernandez completely off some teams' boards, per Bedard and Thamel, and he eventually fell all the way to the fourth round of the 2010 draft, where the New England Patriots selected him with the 113th overall pick. 

Hernandez ended up signing a four-year deal with the team, and by the start of the 2010 season, was the youngest NFL player on an active roster.

Up until this highly-publicized murder charge, Hernandez has proven to be much more of a producer on the field than a headache off of it. 

As a rookie, he caught 45 passes for 563 yards and six scores for the Patriots offense. He set new career highs during his second season, which saw him haul in 79 passes for 910 yards and seven scores. Hernandez was named to his first Pro Bowl as the Patriots advanced to the Super Bowl, where they lost to the New York Giants.

Last season, injuries limited Hernandez to just 10 games, but he still managed to catch 51 passes for 483 yards and five scores for the top-scoring offense in the NFL. 

Arguably one of the more versatile tight ends in football, Hernandez is capable of lining up at receiver, in-line tight end, fullback and running back. When teamed with Rob Gronkowski, Hernandez provides New England with the most complete pair of tight ends in the NFL.

Of course, However, his involvement in an ongoing homicide investigation threatens to put a halt to any of his on-field success.

The microscope was initially placed on Hernandez when Massachusetts State police searched his home in North Attleboro on Tuesday, per Bedard and Thamel.

The search coincided with the aforementioned murder investigation of Lloyd, a Boston native and friend of Hernandez. Lloyd was found dead Monday, roughly a mile-and-a-half from Hernandez's home. 

A day later, TMZ reported that Hernandez had been named in a lawsuit that claimed the Patriots tight end shot 30-year-old Connecticut resident Alexander Bradley in the face during a February argument. After the suit was originally dismissed, it was refiled this week. 

The murder investigation took another turn Thursday when ABC News reported that Hernandez had intentionally destroyed his cell phone and video surveillance system. He also hired a cleaning crew for his entire home before the police arrived Tuesday, which spawned more questions from law enforcement. 

Speculation briefly raged over whether or not a warrant for his arrest would be issued. Both the arrest and charges came down on Wednesday.

A star in both Bristol and Gainesville, Fla., Hernandez arrived in New England and quickly became one of the NFL's most dynamic tight ends. However, his arrest, and the six charges in connection with the ongoing murder investigation are likely to keep him off the playing field for the foreseeable future. 

With every new development, a once-promising football career grows more bleak.


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