In light of his involvement in a homicide investigation, the New England Patriots are being second-guessed for making a heavy investment in tight end Aaron Hernandez.
But according to one NFL executive, such criticism isn’t completely fair.
FOX Sports has learned one of the services that provide predraft psychological profiles for select NFL teams gave Hernandez a perfect test score when he was coming out of the University of Florida following his junior season.
“It’s an interesting thing,” the executive said. “Other guys have gotten written up with much worse scores but not gotten into trouble.”
Hernandez could be in big trouble now.
The 23-year-old Hernandez and several of his friends are being investigated as Massachusetts State police try to solve last weekend’s killing of Odin Lloyd. The 27-year-old Lloyd reportedly had ties to Hernandez.
It’s unknown whether the Patriots subscribed to the same psychological testing service for their predraft scouting on Hernandez. He slipped into the fourth round of the 2010 draft despite winning the 2009 Mackey Award annually given to college football’s top tight end.
Hernandez’s slide is believed to stem largely from a series of failed drug tests while at Florida. Some NFL teams were advised that Hernandez may have developed a substance-abuse problem in response to the unexpected 2006 death of his 49-year-old father, Dennis, following what should have been routine hernia surgery.
In 2009, Aaron Hernandez told USA Today that losing his father was a shock.
"Everyone was close to my father, but I was the closest" he said then. "I was with him more than my friends. When that happened, who do I talk to, who do I hang with? It was tough.”
Hernandez also said he tried to keep both sides of his family together as infighting escalated following his father’s death. Hernandez’s mother, Terri, told USA Today that her son was “very, very angry.” Older brother D.J. described Aaron as “just lost” in the aftermath.
From the outside, Hernandez appeared to have gotten his life back in order with the Patriots. He hadn’t been suspended under the NFL’s substance-abuse program. Hernandez also blossomed into one of the league’s top young tight ends in his first two seasons.
Hernandez had earned enough trust from the Patriots to land a seven-year, $41.2 million contract extension in July 2012. The deal included a $12.5 million signing bonus.
The aforementioned psychological profile described Hernandez as having “good intelligence” despite not posting good grades at Florida. A synopsis of the report provided to FOX Sports depicted Hernandez as “passionate toward football with a fun personality. He gets along with all different types of people.”
“He kind of sounded like a regular guy who was a baller,” the executive said. “He was not a good student, but he was a smart enough guy.”
Then came Lloyd’s death and troubling reports of previously unknown incidents involving Hernandez that have surfaced this week. The executive also said he respects the psychological testing results but they aren’t an end-all for his team’s college scouting.
“There might be an element of con if the player is prepared for what’s being asked,” he said.
This much appears evident: The Patriots were fooled into thinking Hernandez had left his college troubles behind.