Anyone fascinated by the Aaron Hernandez saga has had plenty of material to consume over the past six months — multiple documentaries, a book from Hernandez’s attorney, and a six-part Boston Globe Spotlight series and podcast.
But now there’s one more title to add to the list — a book from Hernandez’s brother, Jonathan, which provides yet more perspective on the rise and fall of the former Patriots tight end.
Coming out on Tuesday, “The Truth About Aaron: My Journey to Understand My Brother” by Jonathan Hernandez with Lars Anderson still doesn’t provide the full answers as to why a talented young athlete with a baby and a $40 million contract would turn to a violent and destructive lifestyle.
But it provides a fuller picture of Aaron Hernandez, adding new details about his childhood in Connecticut, his roller-coaster tenure at the University of Florida and with the Patriots, and his final days in prison.
It also provides a catharsis for Jonathan Hernandez, who was three years older than Aaron and whose life was flipped upside-down by his brother’s demise.
“I was guilty by association — guilty of being his brother,” Jonathan wrote.
His memoir doesn’t rehash the same stories that have become the bedrocks of the Hernandez saga. It doesn’t delve much into the details of the 2012 double shooting in the South End (of which Hernandez was found not guilty), the infamous “flop house,” what happened at that bar fight in Gainesville, Fla., or why Hernandez wanted to kill Odin Lloyd (of which he was found guilty).
Instead, the book introduces new anecdotes and information that gives a more complete picture of Hernandez.
For instance, a small portion of the book is devoted to Hernandez’s CTE, and of course, Jonathan brings up the possibility that his brother’s brain condition contributed to his behavior. Jonathan notes that while his brother only played three NFL seasons, he played tackle football for more than 15 years.
But Jonathan doesn’t put all the blame on football, either — he details a time when they were kids and Hernandez smacked head first into a wall while ice skating, causing a massive wound and knocking out two of Hernandez’s front teeth. He also writes about a time when Hernandez got smashed on the head with a hammer as a child.
Jonathan writes that his brother would “snap” as a child when they were playing video games, and how he would often grow cold and distant. He writes that when Hernandez was with the Patriots, he battled extreme paranoia, sleeping with a large kitchen knife on his night stand and worrying that the FBI was out to get him. The book does not make mention of Hernandez’s PCP use, but notes that he was smoking a lot of marijuana.
“He genuinely believed someone was out to get him, and he couldn’t explain why,” Jonathan writes.
Jonathan’s book provides fuller details of how their father, Dennis Hernandez, used to beat them as kids. It also details their father’s sudden and shocking death after what was supposed to be routine hernia surgery, and how much it hurt them, despite the mixed feelings they had about their father.
Jonathan doesn’t equivocate about Hernandez’s sexuality, saying he found out late in his brother’s life that he was gay. Hernandez had a secret boyfriend, who is not named, and Jonathan details several episodes in which Hernandez was with other men. Hernandez battled demons about his sexuality, especially growing up in a house where homophobic slurs were common.
The book also provides disturbing details about sexual abuse Hernandez allegedly suffered as a child. The Hernandez brothers regularly went to a babysitter’s house on snow days, and an older boy at the house allegedly made Hernandez perform sex acts from as young as age 6.
The book provides new details about Hernandez’s time at the University of Florida. He had bedding from the animated movie “Cars,” showing he was still a child at heart. At one point in his sophomore year, he moved in with his tight ends coach, John Hevesy. Hernandez’s college girlfriend, a student named Alyssa, said Hernandez quit smoking marijuana for several months in 2008, “but he would wake up in the middle of the night having a nightmare because he thought he smoked,” she said.
Jonathan wrote that then-head coach Urban Meyer wanted to find a job for Jonathan on the Florida football staff so he could keep an eye on his brother.
“Aaron will either be the best tight end to ever play this game, or I fear he will spend the rest of his life in prison,” Meyer allegedly told Jonathan.
Another Gators assistant told Jonathan: “Aaron needs to go to the NFL, because he may never make it out of Florida if he doesn’t leave now.”
And the book provides a few new details about Hernandez’s time with the Patriots. Jonathan writes about attending the Patriots-Broncos playoff game in January 2012, a game in which Hernandez suffered a concussion. Driving home with Jonathan after the game, Hernandez intentionally buzzed a traffic cop and got into a high-speed car chase, and eventually lost the police.
Jonathan also recalls staying with his brother in California in February 2013, and his brother brandishing a gun and putting it up to his own chin.
We still don’t know the full details of what happened with Lloyd, or that night in the South End. But Jonathan Hernandez’s book provides a richer account of who his brother was, and the criminal he became.
“That is the intention of this book, to share the entirety of this story,” Jonathan wrote. “It is my hope that sharing the truth about Aaron can help others.”
Ben Volin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.