“I can’t just be young and reckless Aaron any more.
I’m going to try to do the right things”
Aaron Hernandez in an ESPN Article after his daughter was born in November 2012.
I’ve met Aaron Hernandez a few time over the past few years. First while visiting my alma matter, the University of Florida while he was a stand out tight end for the football team. I had short playing career at UF but my ties to the university have remained strong. When I return to campus I always like to make the stroll down memory lane and visit the coaches, administration, locker rooms, weight rooms etc all of which have since changed. I recall seeing Aaron for the first time in the UF weight room in 2008 hanging with other players and was introduced by one of the coaches. He had already established himself as a talented player at this point and seemed like any other college athlete.
Fast forward only a few years or so and he’s been arrested on 1st degree murder charges along with being additionally implicated in the shooting of a friend, as well as being investigated for a double homicide in 2012.
Aaron Hernandez signed a 5 year extension to his contract last year worth almost 40 million dollars. When I saw him last year and photographed him while he was making an appearance for a public autograph signing, I could tell something had changed the humble kid I met in the weight room at UF. I’m not saying he was scary or dangerous, rather seemingly on a happy hour binge of ego and power with the money he was expected to collect with his new contract and the fame of being an NFL football player. He was nearly an hour late due to being out the night before and was now signing autographs for kids and being praised by fans who looked up to him as a role model. He was only 22 years old.
Now at 23, his life is probably over as he knew it. I don’t have the talent to express what I’m really thinking or how to craft the words accurately. How does a kid with real opportunity go this far astray? What I do know is that in the few minutes we had together shooting he was quiet and seemingly a little nervous. Fortunately, the previous experiences I had with him and a couple of bad jokes later got him to loosen up for a single frame that I didn’t know would ultimately define him for me. While Aaron Hernandez is commanding all the media attention, my thoughts are with the family of Odin Lloyd, the victim in this horrible incident.
Aaron’s shirt says “Young & Reckless” surrounded by the phrase “Stay Reckless.” I didn’t even realize what he was wearing at the time and little did I know, this wasn’t just a brand or tee shirt, it truly was Aaron Hernandez.
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