Recently a documentary that chronicled the story of famed NFL star turned convicted murderer Aaron Hernandez was released on Netflix. As someone who is a huge football fan and who was captivated and shocked by the Hernandez arrest, investigation, trial, and conviction, I knew I had to watch it. Here is my review of the documentary as it attempted to cover the entire Aaron Hernandez story, from football, to drug use, to questions about his sexuality, to a string of violence surrounding Hernandez and his associates, to the eventual arrest, conviction, and beyond.
Aaron Hernandez was an incredible football player. After dominating high school
football in Connecticut, Hernandez headed down to Gainesville to play college football at the
University of Florida. He was a part of one of the most enigmatic but talented college football
teams in the country. He helped Florida win the NCAA National Championship in 2009 (the
season was in 2008, but the title game took place in January of 2009). Hernandez was one of
the best collegiate tight ends in the country, which led to him getting a lot of hype from the
National Football League (NFL). Hernandez decided to skip his senior year at Florida and enter
the 2010 NFL Draft. Many believed that he had the talent to be selected in the first round of the
draft, but concerns over off the field issues and rumors of failed drug tests caused his draft stock
to fall. The documentary told of some of the issues he faced at Florida such as Hernandez
allegedly punching someone at a bar because they asked him to pay for his drink. He was also
connected to a double shooting in Gainesville in 2007 although no charges were ever filed. He
was also suspended for a game at Florida for a failed drug test. Hernandez ended up being
selected by the New England Patriots in the fourth round. Hernandez quickly became one half
of the NFL’s best tight end tandem alongside fellow 2010 draftee Rob Gronkowski. Hernandez
played so well over his first two seasons in the NFL that the Patriots awarded him with a 5 year,
40-million-dollar extension in 2012 (the second largest extension ever given to a tight end right
behind the one given to Gronkowski). The Patriots seemed set at the tight end position for years
Then, in the summer of 2013, the sports world and the New England Patriots were sent
into complete shock. Hernandez’s home was searched in relation to the murder of Odin Lloyd
(Hernandez’s fiancé’s sister’s boyfriend, a friend of Hernandez). Hernandez was soon charged
for the murder of Lloyd. The documentary focused a lot on the trial of this case. They
interviewed the prosecutor heavily and also focused in on a lot of the people connected to
Hernandez. Through this trial, a connection was made between Hernandez and a previously
unsolved double homicide in Boston back in 2012. After a lengthy trial, Hernandez was
ultimately found guilty of the murder of Odin Lloyd. Then the state turned their eyes towards the
double murder. Hernandez hired famous lawyer Jose Baez (who represented Casey Anthony in
her famous case) and was ultimately found not guilty of both murders in the double murder
case. The documentary placed far less focus on the second trial.
Just five days after his acquittal of the double murder charges in 2017, Hernandez was
found dead in his prison cell of an apparent suicide. The suicide came as a surprise to many
due to the fact that he had just had some of his first good news in some time. He had also started appealing his conviction in the Lloyd case. Due to an odd Massachusetts state law, since
Hernandez died during an open case, his murder charge was dropped. The family of Lloyd
appealed this decision and in 2019, the murder charge was put back on Hernandez.
One of the most shocking revelations in the documentary was the fact his former high
school teammate alleged that he and Hernandez had performed many homosexual acts with
each other in high school, and that it was a part of who Hernandez was in high school. Since
the documentary came out, another former high school teammate of Hernandez claimed that those stories were completely untrue. We do not know exactly what the truth is here in the situation, but nevertheless, it was quite a shock.
The documentary attempted to show a myriad of reasons why Hernandez was the
way that he was. It touched on alleged sexual abuse that Hernandez suffered as a child
as well as his alleged homosexuality or bisexuality. The documentary also showed a lot of evidence in Hernandez’s brain of CTE (a disease that affects the brain due to repeated trauma and blows to the head) which affects decision making. Hernandez also had a very difficult relationship with his mother, which the documentary hints at being a part of what made Hernandez who he was. Hernandez was also heavily involved in drugs throughout his football career and even admitted to being high on marijuana while playing football. One thing I did like about the documentary is that it presented all of these as reasons that helped turn Hernandez into a convicted murderer, but they were not excuses for what he did or what he became. Ultimately, he, not his issues, committed the murder.
The documentary was not very well put together in my opinion. It jumped around a lot,
and it felt like they were trying to tell 15 different stories all at the same time instead of just going from one story to the next. I feel that this documentary is so riveting because of the
content and the people involved, not because of how it was put together or presented.
I would recommend this documentary to people just so that they can see just how crazy
of a story this was. Also, it shows that people are not what they seem. Even if someone seems
to have one personality, they could be a completely different person in secret. Also, the
celebrities that we put on a pedestal often do not live up to the expectations that we give them
as role models. Two quotes that stuck out to me from the documentary were “he
was able to play football by day, and gangster by night,” and then “no one has allegedly
murdered two people and then played an entire season as a professional athlete.” I would give
the documentary as a whole a grade of 7.5/10.