College football star at 17.
Drafted by New England Patriots at 20.
Signs $40 million deal with New England Patriots at 23.
Convicted Killer at 25.
Dead in apparent suicide at 27.
As most of us in sports know, stats
never tell the whole story.
The stats certainly can't quantify the loss his fiancee and 5-year-old daughter must feel today. The numbers can't describe the troubled kid Hernandez was at 16, when his father died after complications from hernia surgery -- though some say Hernandez was troubled even before that. The figures don't detail the failed drug tests in college, or all the coaches who were worried about his "off the field activities," but turned their heads because Hernandez was such a football talent.
And, of course, no statistic could ever put a value on the life of the man Hernandez was convicted of killing
in 2013, Odin L. Lloyd, a father of two who was 27 years old at the time of his murder.
Today, some are questioning why Hernandez would take his own life -- Massachusetts prison officials say he hung himself in his cell -- just when things seemed to be looking better for his future. It was only a week ago that he was acquitted of two additional murders in a separate case. Although Hernandez was already serving a life sentence without parole for killing Lloyd, his attorneys were hopeful that Hernandez had a chance to be released from prison soon because the 2013 conviction was being automatically reviewed by the state's highest court
Many people will try to make Aaron Hernandez out to be a monster. But doing so misses the point. The truth is that more people than not have watched -- and often enabled -- friends or family members as they spiral out of control. Too many of us stand by, paralyzed when we know people we care about are a danger to others, or themselves.
Way too late we ask these questions: When did it start to go so wrong? The first time your kid tried meth or heroin? The first time they started "hanging out with the wrong crowd," as coaches and friends said about Hernandez early on? The first time they played with a gun, or got into a fight at school, as we hear so often in news stories when violent acts are committed?
It may make us feel better to criticize Hernandez for blowing his big chance as a football star, but in your heart, you understand that this is not an just an NFL story -- it's a story we've seen play out many times in our own lives.
So instead of mocking him or shaking your head, use Hernandez's life to look at your own house for signs of early trouble. Because the signs are always there, if we care to see them. If we don't turn our heads.
There were signs in one NFL scouting report
before Hernandez was even drafted: "Self-esteem is quite low; not well-adjusted emotionally, not happy, moods unpredictable, not stable, doesn't take much to set him off, but not an especially jumpy guy," the scout wrote in his report.
Prison officials said Wednesday that the investigation into Hernandez's suicide is ongoing. But no matter how Aaron Hernandez died, I hope in the final seconds of his short life, he found some peace.