The story of Aaron Hernandez has hit the big time. Netflix’s epic three-part docuseries, from the studio that created hit series ‘Making a Murderer’, depicts the career of Hernandez, an American footballer who appeared to be a great success story in the NFL. He had everything. Talent, work ethic, dedication to the game. But Hernandez was living a lie. Below we discuss his story.
Spoilers ahead for Killer Inside: The Mind Of Aaron Hernandez...
The son of a traditional father who shared a volatile and sometimes violent relationship with his mother, Aaron and his brother were pushed to excel in physical activities. His upbringing was tough on all fronts, to the extent that according to his brother he was sexually and physically abused as a child.
Despite this tough upbringing, Aaron soon stood out across several sports at Bristol Central high school. A tight end, the documentary reveals while he was at high school he began a secret homosexual relationship with the quarterback, Dennis SanSoucie, something that he was forced to hide from his traditional father. His father’s death in 2006 hit him hard yet he was emotionless at the funeral but struggled with figures of authority throughout his life.
In an ultra-macho environment, both high school players hid their sexuality but it was Aaron who would go on to achieve big things on the football field as he moved to join the University of Florida at the age of 17, due to his football ability, rather than his academic prowess. With a growing dependence on marijuana, this move was difficult for a young, unstable adolescent to handle. The Boston Globe would, with the benefit of hindsight state:
“The athletic gifts were obvious, but behind them was an angry teenager struggling with an abusive upbringing, a growing dependence on drugs, and questions about his own sexual identity.”
Hernandez’s aggressive nature and his drug habit only developed in Florida as he tasted independence but his game still progressed on the football field. Having become one of the team's key players, winning the John Mackey Award along the way, he entered the 2010 NFL Draft at the age of 21. With teams suspicious of his drug use in the past, despite having the talent of a first-round draft pick, he was only picked up by the New England Patriots in the fourth round but turned himself into the key player in one of the league’s best teams.
At such a tender age it is unusual for a player to even be drafted at all, let alone play in the biggest American football game there is, the Superbowl. Hernandez made his mark on the 2012 edition by scoring a touchdown, but that wasn’t enough to secure the win as the Patriots lost by four points.
From starring in the Superbowl to being arrested for murder in 2013, his life quickly spiralled. He had married Shayanna Jenkins and after her sister’s partner Odin Lloyd, was murdered just one mile from Hernandez’s home, he was an instant suspect. Six days after the death, the NFL player was arrested at his home and charged with first-degree murder, with a whole host of evidence placing him at the crime scene, along with two others.
The documentary shows the emotions of both families as the trial takes place, before he was found guilty of murder in the first degree and sentenced to life in prison. In 2017, Hernandez was also on trial for the double homicide of Daniel de Abreu and Safiro Furtado, a drive-by shooting that occurred in 2012, but was acquited on that particular charge thanks to expert defence lawyer Jose Baez.
This gave him a boost that he could appeal the original charge yet five days later he was found dead in his prison cell. He had hung himself and left three notes, one to his lawyer, one to his fiance and one to his child. Two days prior, as seen on the documentary, journalist and radio host Michelle McPhee went onto The Kirk and Callahan Show and implied that Hernandez was gay, using innuendos. Although it cannot be confirmed, his ‘outing’ could have played a part in his death.
After his death, his brain was analysed at Boston University and it was found that he had chronic traumatic encephalopathy, also known as CTE. This is caused by repeated head trauma and can result in poor judgement, aggression, anger and lack of inhibition. It was described as "the most severe case of [CTE] medically seen" for somebody his age by the researchers and almost certainly contributed to his behaviour. Just weeks before the 2020 edition of the Super Bowl it does bring the discussion of concussion in American football to the forefront once more.
The Netflix documentary depicts this tragic story with much more detail while also conveying the emotion around the American media at the time. It certainly has a miserable ending for all involved, but it is a must-watch for any sports fan.