Former New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez is dead at the age of 27 after hanging himself in his prison cell in Massachusetts. Hernandez was serving a life sentence for the murder of Odin Lloyd in 2013. Just last week, Hernandez was found not guilty in a separate double-murder trial.
On Wednesday's episode of Undisputed, Skip Bayless and Shannon Sharpe reacted to Hernandez's death, and reflected on his downfall.
Hernandez's death is sad, but he doesn't deserve sympathy
“It’s a sad and tragic ending to a once-promising career. And I can assure you in my addressing this issue, this will not be Mark Antony’s oration of Julius Caesar. Not be an Ides of March speech, because he is very undeserving.
But let me say this … I don’t know how many people had an opportunity to really watch Aaron Hernandez in the National Football League. He was special. He could have been really, really all-time-great special. He possessed that kind of ability.”
Hernandez squandered a very rare talent
“In 2011, Rob Gronkowski set an NFL record for receiving yards and touchdowns by an NFL tight end. He had 90 catches, over 1,300 yards, he had 17 total touchdowns.
That very year, Aaron Hernandez had 79 catches for over 900 yards and seven touchdowns. Those are numbers that franchise tight ends playing today -- the Greg Olsens, the Delanie Walkers, the guys that are the No. 1 receiving threat of a team. He did this as a backup.
This is when I knew he was very, very talented and special. In the divisional game against the Denver Broncos, they lined him up in the I-formation. They tossed him the football, and he goes 43 yards down to the 7-yard line. That’s a tight end, not a running back.”
Hernandez felt being a gang member was as important as being a Patriot
“I am a former professional athlete, and I dreamt of days that I was going to be able to leave the environment in which I was in and I was going to be able to provide for my family and my grandmother in specific. And she would never have to worry again, and I wouldn’t have to worry again, and I wouldn’t have to do the things I did to survive my upbringing.
So once you realize you have a talent, and this talent can take you away from where you are, the environment that you’re in,he’s like ‘OK, I got a way out now. Now I don’t have to engage in activities like some guys do.’ A lot of professional athletes come from very impoverished backgrounds, hard backgrounds, and they do things out of necessity. ‘I need to be able to survive. I need to be able to provide for my family.’
But once you reach a certain level, once you reach a professional athlete status, a lot of guys leave that behind. Aaron Hernandez could not. He could not. He was not a studio gangster. He was a for-real gang member, and that was a part of him. That was equally as important to him as playing in the National Football League for the New England Patriots. He had it tatted on his neck, I think he had ‘Lifetime Loyalty’ tatted on his neck while he was incarcerated, serving the life sentence.”
I hate most of all what he did to his daughter
“A lot of murderers, what we see in the final, in the ultimate selfish act. ‘I’m not going to give you control over my life.' He committed this murder that he’s serving the life sentence for, of Odin Lloyd, at 23. He got sentenced at 25. He was going to serve the rest of his life in prison without any chance of parole. When you’re in prison, they tell you when to wake up. They tell you when to go to bed. They tell you when and where to go eat. They tell you when you can shower and when you can go to the rec hall.
Aaron Hernandez did not want to spend the next 50 to 60 years of his life being told what he could and couldn’t do. I hate - andI hate using the word hate - I hate what he did to the family of Odin Lloyd. He took their son, he took a brother’s life. I hate what he did to his family, because he took their life. I hate most of all what he did to his daughter. Because she’s not going to really know her father, and when she gets of age, they’re going to explain to her what her father did - and that’s sad. That’s going to be what she has to remember of her dad.
He chose this. I’m not heaping no praise on him. Was he talented? Immensely. Could he have been special? Absolutely. But this is what he chose, and he ruined a lot of lives. You want to ruin your life? Have at it, but you don’t take three families’ lives with you in the process.”
I can't feel sorry for Aaron Hernandez
“I’m conflicted about this. We all heard about it early this morning the first time. I’m trying to figure out if I should feel sorry, in any way, shape or form, for a convicted murderer.
And I can’t. But I can feel sorry for the ‘it’ of this story, which is just the epic tragedy, the downfall of I think a potential Hall of Fame tight end. I think he was on that arc.
We only saw him at age 21, 22 and 23. Those are the three years he played for the New England Patriots. And we saw enough evidence from 21 to 23 that, yeah, if he had kept his life in order, it could have been [special].”
How could Hernandez have thrown everything away?
“I’m sure people will be asking all day today, I’ll be asking myself: How could you throw that away? You’re on a Hall of Fame path, playing for the greatest quarterback ever and arguably the greatest coach ever on the best team in the National Football League. You’re in the middle of dynasty, so you ask yourself ‘how could you throw all that away?’
How many times have I gone through this in my career?Mostly it deals with drug and alcohol abuse, where you’re just fatally flawed. You just don’t have a choice. I feel like he was addicted to a lifestyle that he just couldn’t beat.
In the end, he wasn’t happy unless he was living so on-the-edge that he was leading a secret life of a criminal, basically. Like you say, he’s a gangster. He’s a real gangster.
… He ended up being who he always was. Remember, most teams in that 2010 Draft took Aaron Hernandez off their boards. And you can think what you want of Bill Belichick, but his logic was that he went down to Florida - obviously Belichick’s close with Urban Meyer - and I’m sure Urban told everybody ‘this guy can be trouble.’ Most people thought they had suspicions that he was involved in another double murder at Florida in which two guys were shot to death in their car after they had a nightclub incident with Aaron Hernandez.”
Aaron Hernandez turned back into who most people thought he would be
“He had Tebow as sort of his guiding light at Florida, and I’ve talked with Tim about this. Tim said, without going into gory detail, he spent a lot of time trying to keep Aaron out of trouble.
He had marijuana issues, I think there were repeated failed drug tests. So Belichick goes down and works him out and puts him on the chalkboard and finds high football IQ. Belichick found that Urban Meyer is saying, 'Hey, we don’t have a better practice player than Aaron Hernandez.’ And even as a Patriot, by all accounts he was come early, stay late. He practiced as hard as anybody. He hit the weight room as hard as anybody. He also led this secret life harder than anybody.
… In the end, he turned back into who most people thought he would be.”