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Death of Aaron Hernandez’s dad in 2006 deeply impacted his life

Facing charges of first-degree murder and firearms possession surrounding the death of Odin Lloyd, former New England Patriot tight end Aaron Hernandez is now embroiled in a case that has instantly changed his life. Yesterday, as news of Hernandez’s arrest spread online, the 23-year-old player of Puerto Rican and Italian descent went from NFL stardom to being arrested and unemployed in a just a matter of hours.

Several high-profile reports from outlets such Sports Illustrated have already explored Hernandez’s past, suggesting that the latest developments are just part of a “checked history” which began in his hometown of Bristol, CT, the very same Bristol where ESPN is headquartered.

However, very few national outlets are raising the 2006 death of Daniel Hernandez, Aaron’s father, as the possible cause to why the younger Hernandez has experienced such a tumultuous seven years. According to a January 7, 2006 obituary, Daniel Hernandez was 49 years old when he died. The death notice mentioned that Daniel “took great pleasure in watching his sons play sports and attending their games.”

A local June 22 story from the Hartford Courant spent a significant amount of time focusing on Daniel’s death and the impact it had on Aaron. The article featured many who knew Hernandez, saying that his father’s loss “had a significant effect.” It also said that “Hernandez admitted he began using drugs in 2006 after the death of his father, the Boston Globe reported in 2010. Hernandez put his father’s favorite quote — “if it is to be, it is up to me” — under his picture in the high school yearbook and later had it tattooed on his left arm.”

According to the story, “Hernandez never ran afoul of the law in Bristol, and many residents interviewed by The Courant say the superstar high school player was generous with his time and respectful to members of the community.”

Those who know Hernandez at the time believed that his decision to not attend and play football at the University of Connecticut and choose Florida instead was directly related to his father’s death:

Bristol residents looked forward to the short trip to watch the hometown hero play for UConn, where Hernandez had made an oral commitment during his senior year at Bristol Central.

But three months after his father’s death, Hernandez backed out of his pledge to play for the Huskies, where his brother, D.J., was a quarterback, to attend Florida. He committed to the Gators on the same day he made a recruiting visit, hosted by Tim Tebow, then a freshman quarterback and now a fellow Patriot. The decision “shocked” Terri Hernandez, she said at the time.

Within months of beginning his collegiate football career in Gainesville, Fla., Hernandez was one of four players interviewed by police after an early morning shooting at a night club left two men wounded. No one was ever charged in the shootings of Justin Glass and Corey Smith, and Gainesville police said Friday they would not release the police report because it is still considered an open investigation.

In a 2009 story for USA Today, Aaron Hernandez opened up about his the loss of his father: “It was more like a shock. Everyone was close to my father, but I was the closest. I was with him more than my friends. When that happened, who do I talk to, who do I hang with? It was tough.”

The USA TODAY story also quoted Terri Hernandez, Dennis’ wife, who said: “It was a rough process, and I didn’t know what to do for [Aaron]. He would rebel. It was very, very hard, and he was very, very angry. He wasn’t the same kid, the way he spoke to me. The shock of losing his dad, there was so much anger.”

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