The New England Patriots knew that Aaron Hernandez had plenty of off-field issues before they drafted him in 2010. There’s a reason — or several — that Hernandez was a first-round talent who fell to the fourth round. So why did Bill Belichick and company take the chance?
Before we answer that, it should be noted that no one could have anticipated Hernandez being convicted of murder. As for the alleged marijuana issue and whispers of gang affiliation while at Florida, Belichick was reportedly assured by his close friend Urban Meyer that Hernandez had straightened out his act.
“We knew he had some issues prior,” Reese said. “Meyer and Belichick were very, very close, and I think Urban convinced Bill that, you know, that these things weren’t going to be an issue. When we structured his first contract, his rookie contract, we probably had 75 percent of the money in the contract set up so that he would only make it if he stayed out of trouble, didn’t miss meetings, was always there doing the right thing. And for the period of the original contract, he lived up to every bit of it. So it turned out well. Of course, after that, after he signed (his $40 million contract extension), things kind of went awry.”
Does that mean Meyer is to blame? Of course not. He may have felt that Hernandez had seen the light, but the Patriots obviously agreed if they signed Hernandez to a huge extension.
Perhaps even more interesting is Reese’s assertion that being drafted by an NFL team so close to his hometown of Bristol, Connecticut, was bad for Hernandez.
“Aaron grew up in a tough environment, but he went to the University of Florida to get away from Hartford, to get away from that environment,” Reese said. “He knew it would be better for him. … The truth is, the vast majority of guys that have maybe had a tough upbringing, when you throw them into a great locker room, great organization, great place to play, they come out of it. They see the other side of it. ‘Why would I ever want to go back to that other place?’
“The problem is you run into an Aaron Hernandez, who can’t get there. He’s comfortable back in Hartford . . . with all that trouble.”