Patriots coach Bill Belichick said it best last week when asked by CNBC’s Suzy Welch to play word association.
When Welch said, “Aaron Hernandez,” Belichick answered, “Tragedy.”
Hernandez’s life took one final sad, tragic turn early Wednesday morning when he committed suicide in his cell at the Souza-Baranowski Correctional Center in Shirley.
Hernandez was likely never to breathe free air again, locked up in prison for life without parole after being convicted of killing his friend, Odin Lloyd, in 2013.
But that his life ended so swiftly, and took such a sharp, dramatic turn, is nothing short of heartbreaking. We feel sadness today for the family of Lloyd, who was shot in a North Attleborough industrial lot at just 28 years old.
We feel sadness for the families of Daniel de Abreu and Safiro Furtado, who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time and were gunned down by someone in Hernandez’s vehicle in 2012.
Hernandez, 27, was found not guilty in the slayings of de Abreu and Furtado, likely because his friend, Alexander Bradley, was not a credible witness. The families of the victims sat in court day after day, hoping for justice, only to find that the state of Massachusetts didn’t have enough corroborating evidence to convict anyone for the murders.
And now, after all that, they see Hernandez take his own life.
We feel sadness for his fiancée, Shayanna Jenkins-Hernandez, who sat by Hernandez day after day, year after year, in his two murder trials.
We feel sadness for his daughter, Avielle, who was only seven months old when her father was hauled away in June 2013, and will turn five years old this November. She will grow up without a father and without his NFL millions, and will eventually learn about the terrible things he did.
We feel sadness for Hernandez’s mother, Terri, and brother, D.J., who watched as Aaron’s life spiraled downward. It started with the death of his father, Dennis, in 2006, long before Hernandez turned into a murderer.
And we feel sadness for Hernandez, a smart kid who made several bad decisions. Hernandez literally had the world at his fingertips. He was an All-American tight end at Florida, a national champion. He was one of the youngest players ever to enter the NFL, getting drafted by the Patriots in 2010 when he was still just 20 years old.
He was a major part of the Patriots offense, teaming with Rob Gronkowski for three seasons to score 18 touchdowns and catch 175 passes for 1,956 yards. Hernandez was a Swiss Army knife for Belichick, athletic enough to line up at tight end, fullback, slot receiver, and even running back.
Belichick would have made Hernandez a superstar. Hernandez signed a $40 million contract at age 23, and could have made many millions more in a long NFL career.
Yet he threw it all away over drugs and street credibility and machismo, hauled away for life in jail without parole before he even turned 24 years old.
It’s all incredibly tragic, and sad. For everyone involved.
If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.
Follow Ben Volin on Twitter at @BenVolin.