After he was found guilty of first-degree murder last week, Aaron Hernandez creased his forehead, pursed his lips and resorted to a tactic too common in his menacing life: intimidation.
The 25-year-old former NFL star shook his head at the jury and mouthed, “You’re wrong.” He licked his lips and shot a defiant stare. It was a harrowing moment. It was exactly how you’d expect Hernandez to react to a conviction.
His story seemed like a familiar NFL tale: Roughneck uses football as an outlet, evolves and makes an amazing life for himself. But Hernandez didn’t change. He left his hometown of Bristol, Conn., but he never ditched the violence that began in his youth.
In Hernandez’s case, sports didn’t reform him. Sports provided a convenient excuse to dismiss his problems. When Hernandez was getting into fights, failing drug tests and suppressing suspicion of more deadly acts, there were always coaches, administrators or executives at Bristol Central High School, the University of Florida and the New England Patriots who enabled him by not taking football away. He was too talented to dismiss. They couldn’t have possibly known the monster they were allowing to develop.
Now, a jury whose members admitted to crying during deliberations has taken down Hernandez. Last Wednesday, he was sentenced to life in prison without parole after being found guilty in the murder of Odin Lloyd. And Hernandez still has to stand trial for the 2012 killings of Daniel de Abreu and Safiro Furtado, murders for which he was indicted last May.