About 10 months ago, I wrote an article titled, "Aaron Hernandez: A Class Act". In the wake of everything we've seen and heard the past week, part of me has felt pretty foolish for writing such a thing. Part of me, though, still remembers what prompted me to write that piece praising Hernandez, and can't help but wonder if there's something more to the story than what we're being fed by the media. After all, it's hard to look at the words that Aaron Hernandez spoke the day he got his contract extension and connect them to the crime he is being associated with. Read them for yourself…
"He (Robert Kraft) changed my life. Now I'm able to basically have a good chance to be set for life, and have a good life. I have a daughter on the way, I have a family that I love. It's just knowing that they're going to be OK. Because I was happy playing for my two hundred fifty, four hundred thousand [dollar salary]. Knowing that my kids and my family will be able to have a good life, go to college, it's just an honor that he did that for me. He gave me this opportunity. The $50,000 to help his foundation, obviously, is basically like saying 'thank you' and its means a lot to me.
"He didn't need to give me the amount that he gave me, and knowing that he thinks I deserve that, he trusts me to make the right decisions, it means a lot. It means he trusts my character, and the person I am, which means a lot, cause my mother, that's how she wanted to raise me. They have to trust you to give you that money. I just feel a lot of respect and I owe it back to him. Not only is it $50,000, cause that's not really, that's just the money that really doesn't mean much, with the amount given, it's more, I have a lot more to give back, and all I can do is play my heart out for them, make the right decisions, and live life as a Patriot."
Yes, talk is cheap, and actions speak louder than words. Still, what is written above seems like more than just lip service by a spoiled "thug". Those are the words of a person who truly seems to "get it", and has been changed. While this past week suggests otherwise, I want to believe that those words are a true reflection of who Aaron Hernandez is. Although I bleed for the Pats, my desire to see Aaron Herndanez's name cleared has nothing to do with the football field. The Patriots have dealt with and overcome far more serious setbacks than this. I want Aaron Hernandez's name to be cleared, because I want to be able to root for my favorite players without wondering if they're really a criminal thug, I want to not feel like a fool for being suckered by an empty speech, and I want those words which meant something to me, to actually mean something.
In my opinion, it's unlikely that Hernandez pulled the trigger and killed Odin Llyod. I do think it's likely that he knows who did, and is probably involved in some level of cover-up. Best case scenario, he's trying to protect someone who is deeply important to him from a life in prison, even at his own personal expense. While illegal, and wrong, at least there's a twisted sense of honor that can be gleaned from a motive like that. Worst case, he's prominently involved and the stories of strip clubs, fisticuffs, guns, and thuggery that have been seeping through the cracks this week are true. The even worser, "worst" case is that I taught my now two year old son to respond, "Aaron" when asked who his favorite player is, and that player just happens to have murdered a man "execution" style and thrown him in a ditch.
At this point, I will refrain from further judgement until the entire story plays out. I will continue to hope that Aaron is innocent and his name is cleared, not as a Patriots fan, but as a fan of gratitude, humility, honor, and classiness, and as a fan of second chances.
I just hope that Aaron Hernandez didn't waste his.