Talk about a modern day, made for reality TV soap opera. This just in: another athlete has given us yet another harrowing, heartbreaking homily on the hazards of mixing giftedness with recklessness. The dramatic, meteoric rise of the footfall career of Aaron Hernandez met an equally speedy fall and sudden stall.
In actuality, the life and death of Aaron Hernandez was a sad, sobering, shocking yarn full of knots and kinks leading to a tattered and torn, threadbare end. The life of this famous yet infamous professional football player was both sewn tightly and frayed badly, full of high drama and sordid saga that finally all unraveled in a lonely Massachusetts jail cell.
Aaron Josef Hernandez, the 27 year old, 6’-1’’, 245 pound, once and future rising New England Patriots star tight end took his own life this past week. It’s as sad a tale that has ever been told. His is a rags to riches back to rags story that seems like it didn’t have to be. It’s so sad and seemingly so senseless.
Hernandez worked his way up to the top of the sports world. He was NFL divinity; he played in a Super Bowl and played on the best team in the league and was an All Pro selection. But he also simultaneously wormed his way down to the bottom of the general population of humanity; Hernandez was convicted of murder and was serving a life sentence at the time of his death.
Hernandez grew up on the “other side of the tracks” and rose to prominence seemingly overnight. Hernandez attended Bristol Central High School and played as a wide receiver until becoming a tight end, and also played defensive end. As a senior, he was Connecticut’s Gatorade Football Player of the Year.
And his star kept rising.
Hernandez caught passes from Tim Tebow when he played college football at the University of Florida. He was a member of the 2008 BCS National Championship team and was voted a first-team All-American. He was widely recognized as a key contributor to that team’s national championship success. Hernandez then became the first Gator to win the John Mackey Award, given annually to the NCAA’s best tight end.
And his star kept rising.
Hernandez was drafted by the NFL’s New England Patriots as the 15th pick in the fourth round of the 2010 NFL Draft even though he was dogged by allegations of failed drug tests. Still, with future Hall of Famer Tom Brady throwing to him, Hernandez shined for New England. He played on the 2011 Super Bowl team that lost to the New York Giants 21-17. On August 27, 2012, the Patriots signed Hernandez to a five-year, $40 million contract extension, running through 2018. The $12.5 million signing bonus was the largest ever given to an NFL tight end.
But it all began to unravel when he was released by the Patriots in June 2013 immediately after his arrest for the murder of Odin Lloyd. We may never know the whole story, but what was once a bright triumph turned into a dark tragedy.
Sports are like life and life is like sports. There are wins and losses and victories and defeats and ups and downs and twists and turns all the way from start to finish. Aaron Hernandez is just another example of how a good run can all come crashing down with a bad decision here and a misstep there. In all, Hernandez spent more time in prison than on the field with the Patriots. In spite of the tragedy, in life and in death, Hernandez taught us that we don’t have to have a dead end.
Reports say that Hernandez etched John 3:16 on his forehead before taking his life. John 3:16, the hallmark scripture of our faith, coupled with the Easter message, proves that God loves us and is concerned about us. Jesus conquered death so that we don’t have to use death as an out or an option. We may fall but we don’t have to fail or give in or give up if we put our trust in Him.