NFL teams knew there were concerns about Florida tight end Aaron Hernandez going into the 2010 NFL draft.
The marijuana use, the short fuse, the shadowy friends from his Connecticut hometown who made visits to Gainesville, Fla. — where they were well known. It was also known that Hernandez was generally regarded as a hard worker on the field, and his talent and versatility were evident.
Like nearly all potential draft picks, Hernandez was a risk/reward prospect, though the risk seemed bigger with him.
Hernandez is under investigation in connection with a homicide after the body of Odin Lloyd, 27, was found near Hernandez’s North Attleborough home on Monday. Hernandez is also facing a civil lawsuit after allegedly shooting a friend in the face in the Miami area earlier this year.
Hernandez’s troubles were well known, long before the Patriots selected him in the fourth round.
An NFL scout revealed his team’s pre-draft file on Hernandez on Thursday, and one section stood out:
“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 said.
Though he has three NFL seasons under his belt, Hernandez is just 23. He entered Florida in the spring semester of 2007, just two months after he turned 17.
But even arriving on campus at such a young age, Hernandez already was using marijuana and quickly settled into the party life of his Gators teammates, the scout said.
Hernandez left Bristol for Gainesville a year after his father, Dennis, died after complications from hernia surgery. Hernandez has said his father’s death affected him deeply, and sent him on a self-destructive path; his older brother, D.J., did everything he could to keep Aaron focused on football and school.
The scout said Hernandez had long been around “street activity,” and once his father died, it gave him reason to act out.
Not long after arriving at Florida, Hernandez was questioned in connection with a shooting outside of a nightclub, the scout said, but nothing came of it.
He was suspended for one game during his Gators career for failing a drug test; the scout said a suspension isn’t usually handed down until the third or fourth failed test.
After the Patriots drafted Hernandez in the fourth round in 2010, the Globe quoted one NFL executive who suggested he had failed four to six drug tests in his college career. Hernandez released a statement after that report was published, saying he only failed one test.
A second scout, who worked for an AFC team before the 2010 draft, said Hernandez’s marijuana and character problems were the worst-kept secret in the scouting community.
“It was pretty well known that he had failed some drug tests at Florida, and there were questions about his maturity that come along with that,” the scout said. “You worried about the people he hung out with.”
Though the first scout said Hernandez’s friends from Connecticut made visits to Florida, one former Florida staffer said then-coach Urban Meyer “didn’t let anyone in” to the program who wasn’t part of a player’s support circle.
“[Hernandez] was extremely young when he got there for us, we knew that, but it seemed like he had turned a corner and was maturing,” the former Gators staffer said. “We knew there were things to work through. Hard-working kid, guys on team loved him. He’s a tough guy; he didn’t take crap off anybody, but never to the lines of what’s being talked about [now].
“One of Urban’s strengths, he can see a kid like that and reach them like others can’t.”
A third scout recalled that Hernandez was considered the toughest kid on the Gators’ roster and “no one will mess with him.”
Despite those question marks, New England made Hernandez the 113th pick in the draft, getting what many considered to be a player with first-round talent for a fourth-round price tag.
It didn’t take long for Hernandez’s quick temper to be revealed at Gillette Stadium. According to an NFL source, within days of being drafted, Hernandez was at the team facility trying to watch film.
When he couldn’t figure out how to use the equipment, he asked how it worked, but got no answer. When Wes Welker walked by the room, Hernandez asked for his help, but Welker said, “Rookie, you figure it out.”
Hernandez responded with expletives.
Hernandez spends little, if any, time with his Patriots teammates off the field, opting to spend his time with those same friends who used to visit him in Gainesville and have known him for years.