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In the end, Aaron Hernandez squandered his talent, his opportunity

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The short, violent life of Aaron Hernandez ended Wednesday when he turned his final act of aggression on himself. Hernandez, the former tight end of the New England Patriots and the Florida Gators, died of an apparent suicide Wednesday morning.

And in the end, the final tragedy was the way he threw it all away.

He was young, and he was rich, and he had a family and a big house. He was talented and on his way to being famous. In the end, none of it mattered to Hernandez, who seemed to prefer the thug lifestyle to making catches and scoring touchdowns. He signed a $40 million extension with the New England Patriots. But Hernandez was convicted of one murder (and he was found not guilty on two others).

The final questions about Hernandez are these: How much would have been enough to make him honorable? Who could have gotten to him? Will we ever know?

Even today, after he committed suicide, it has to feel badly for Hernandez. But you can feel badly for the lost talent, and the wasted opportunity, of a young man  who took his good fortune and tossed it into the street. There are a lot of players in the NFL who have overcome worse backgrounds than Hernandez had.

Hernandez seemed drawn to violence with more fervor than he was drawn to end zones. When he was at Florida, he hit a waiter so hard he punctured his eardrum. Police suspected he was the person who had shot into a bar.

Football wasn’t never enough for Hernandez. Nor was fame. Nor was the bond of teammates. Hernandez never wavered from his path of destruction. Think of his teammates: Tim Tebow and Tom Brady. Think of his coaches: Urban Meyer and Bill Belichick.

Some men cannot be changed, however. Some men warm themselves with trouble. Some men cannot turn away from the chaos.

Hernandez was that way. He simply could not turn away from violence.


Gary Shelton is one of the most recognized and honored sportswriters in the history of the state. He has won the APSE's national columnist of the year twice and finished in the top 10 eight times. He was named the Florida Sportswriter of the Year six times. Gary joined SaintPetersBlog in the spring, helping to bring a sports presence to the website. Over his time in sports writing, Gary has covered 29 Super Bowls, 10 Olympics, Final Fours, Masters, Wimbledons and college national championships. He was there when the Bucs won a Super Bowl, when the Lightning won a Stanley Cup and when the Rays went to a World Series. He has seen Florida, FSU and Miami all win national championships, and he covered Bear Bryant, Bobby Bowden and Don Shula along the way. He and his wife Janet have four children: Eric, Kevin, K.C. and Tori. To contact, visit

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