Aaron Hernandez’s Wrong Turn

Posted on April 21, 2017 by Robert Ringer


Not since O.J. Simpson has an NFL star player created such a media stir as the now deceased Aaron Hernandez. Of course, there are major differences between both their personalities and their crimes.

We know without question that O.J. violently hacked and stabbed to death his ex-wife and Ron Goldman with a knife, notwithstanding the jury’s shameful nullification of the evidence against him, while Aaron Hernandez was probably guilty of shooting and killing at least one person and possibly two others. Ironically, he was just recently acquitted of the latter two murders, though there were witnesses who said he fit the description of the murderer.

O.J. got off scot free and lived a luxurious lifestyle (though his arrogance and stupidity did eventually put him behind bars for the past eight-plus years), while Hernandez was convicted of murdering his friend Odin Lloyd and sentenced to life in prison. He was paranoid about people betraying his trust, and he supposedly was angry at Lloyd for talking to some people with whom he had a beef.

The motivation for O.J.’s heinous crime was not hard to figure out. He was a narcissistic, psychopathic person who for decades had successfully fooled most people into believing he was a lovable, caring individual, though behind the scenes those closest to him knew he had been physically abusing both his first and second wives for years.

In the end, it was Nicole Brown’s shutting him out of her life and thus ending his ability to continue controlling her that caused him to crack and bring to the surface his well-concealed violent nature. His split personality has been dissected by every psychiatrist on the planet, and pretty much everyone now understands who the real O.J. Simpson is.

By contrast, little was known about Aaron Hernandez, except that he had a very troubled life that involved gangs, drugs, and violence. Yet, it’s much easier to understand (not excuse) his sociopathic actions.

By all accounts, Hernandez was extremely close with his father, who himself had been a star football player in high school. In fact, Hernandez was quoted as saying that he spent more time with his father than with any of his friends. Thus, there is little doubt that what caused his turn toward the dark side was his father’s unexpected death from an infection he contracted during a routine hernia operation.

It’s likely no coincidence that Hernandez started getting into trouble after his father passed away, because his mother said he became very angry and estranged from her for several years. Meanwhile, his mother remarried a despicable ex-con who routinely abused her and ultimately attacked her with a kitchen knife. He was subsequently sent to prison, adding to his prior convictions that included violence against small children.

In the meantime, after a spectacular high school career, Aaron Hernandez got a football scholarship to the University of Florida, which one would have thought would lift his spirits and straighten him out. But even though he did consider his Florida teammates to be his new family, he continued to flirt with trouble.

Ironically, Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow, the archetypal all-American boy, was a teammate of Hernandez at Florida. In a video posted on NFL.com, Tom Brady and Tebow are seen talking about Hernandez prior to a game between the Patriots and the Denver Broncos. “I’m trying to watch over Aaron and Brandon (Brandon Spikes, another of Tebow’s Florida teammates then playing for the Patriots),” Brady told Tebow.

To which Tebow responded, “I appreciate that, too, man. They’re good guys.” Said Brady: “(Yeah) they’re a lot to handle.” Brady’s comment made it clear that Hernandez was still on the wrong path after joining the Patriots.

All this brings me back to an article I wrote about a year ago titled “A Turn in the Road,” the main message of which was that things can happen in people’s lives that cause them to take a wrong turn. Thus it was with Hernandez, who was on top of the world, a genuine NFL star on the greatest football dynasty the NFL had ever known.

He had recently signed a $40 million, five-year contract, the highest in league history for a tight end, when events brought on by himself, coupled with heavy drug usage, caught up with him and caused him to take that dreaded wrong turn in the road.

Strange when you think about it: When Tim Tebow got his chance to start in the NFL, he became the most popular player in the league, leading the Denver Broncos to the playoffs, then a win over the big, bad Pittsburgh Steelers in the first-round with an 80-yard touchdown pass in overtime. It looked like he was a cinch to become an NFL legend.

But it was not to be. As Forrest Gump so eloquently put it, “Shit happens.” In this case, the shit was John Elway, former quarterback legend and now executive vice president of football operations for the Broncos, who rewarded Tebow’s spectacular season by shipping him off to the hapless New York Jets. There, brain-dead coach Rex Ryan essentially ended Tebow’s career by sitting him on the bench all season.

Tebow never got another chance to play in the NFL, but is still widely respected and admired everywhere he goes and is almost certain to end up as a major league baseball star, congressman, sports announcer, or in some other high-profile position. He never flinched at his own experience with the unfairness of life and clearly made a conscious decision to take the right path.

But Aaron Hernandez, who enjoyed fame and fortune in the NFL that most football players could only dream of, took a different turn in the road — one that led to crime, imprisonment, and, ultimately, his death. Unlike Tebow, his brain was not wired in a manner that motivated him to turn things around. Which is ironic, because tattooed on one of his arms was one of his father’s favorite sayings, “If it is to be, it’s up to me.”

As I said in my earlier article, I believe in free will, in man’s capacity to rise above adversity, and in accountability. But I also believe that people sometimes take a wrong turn in the road — for any one of an infinite number of reasons — only to discover that they are not able to find their way back.

Aaron Hernandez made that wrong turn and simply didn’t have the mental tools needed to reorient himself. I feel sorry for Odin Lloyd. I feel sorry for Odin Lloyd’s family. I feel sorry for Aaron Hernandez’s family, including his fiancé and four-year-old daughter. And, yes, I feel sorry for Aaron Hernandez, a tragic waste of talent who didn’t have the mental skills to rise above the loss of his father.

Robert Ringer

Robert Ringer is an American icon whose unique insights into life have helped millions of readers worldwide. He is also the author of two New York Times #1 bestselling books, both of which have been listed by The New York Times among the 15 best-selling motivational books of all time.

39 responses to “Aaron Hernandez’s Wrong Turn”

  1. ginobarracuda says:

    As usual, RJR cuts through the usual news babble and offers up a new perspective on Hernandez's life and decisions that lead him onto the ultimate wrong course.

  2. Mike Miller says:

    As a long time Gator fan, I believe you've captured the essence of a successful life by pointing out how differently Tim Tebow and Aaron Hernandez responded to their bad breaks. Among the hundreds of emails and blogs I receive each day, yours always get my attention first.

  3. Paul F Carter says:

    Interesting that you brought up John Elway. I believe that arrogant John didn't want to share the spotlight. I never liked him and this was just another reason.

  4. Patrick says:

    He probably tattooed the wrong word on his arm.
    It's shud be:
    If it is to be, it has to be me.

    Patrick (Singapore )

  5. I have a somewhat different but obvious opinion of how and why people are as we are. Back in the 1950s I got totally hooked on psychoanalysis, and never change even tho I added to my theories. For example, I believe EVERY political figure should be psychoanalyzed and understood accordingly. Then we would understand WHY they think dumb or smart, which or however. Our potentials all lie in our early life. Yes, we are born with predispositions, and then they are met with the circumstances of our early life. Understanding early (psycho) dynamics gives insights to the so-called adult or later age mind. As part of initial testing of all people in any kind of responsible position, I would call for some degree of psychoanalysis for starters to help, in part, determine how a person will or might potentially behave as s'he makes his and her choices in any life drama. Our early experience, I believe, determines us, that in
    relation to the "temperament" we are born with, our predispositions. But, WHO is competent to undertake such analyses?

    • Jim Hallett says:

      Your last question points up the $64,000 quandary. Aaron obviously had the makings of these bad life decisions at an early age, but his father was able to intervene and mitigate them. When he died, Aaron fell back into his leanings and his lousy environment. I am quite sure Tim Tebow had MUCH better upbringing than Hernandez and is part of the reason for his ability to make good decisions, even when things didn't work out in his favor. As a Patriots fan, I was amazed that someone with all that given to him, and with his innate ability as a football player, would throw it all away because of a mental/emotional breakdown. With TB as your QB, Aaron could have gone down as one of the greatest tight ends in the history of the NFL, but instead chose crime, prison, and then suicide. The other problem is that many folks who are supposedly accomplished psychologists/psychiatrists are some of the most screwed up people on the planet, so I am not sure I would hand over any "analysis" to many of them.

      • texas wolfie says:

        Tim Tebows parents were missionaries. They dragged him to foriegn countries as a child and he endured a lonely childhood not speaking the same tongue as the other kids. How did he have it so MUCH better????

        • Phil says:

          May sound counter-intuitive, but could be that the challenge of getting by in those environments made him a stronger, more self aware individual. I do not know much of his biography, but would assume that his parents at least showed him some guidance and affection.

        • Jim Hallett says:

          Values, values, values – THAT is the difference. While Tim's early years may have been lonely or challenging at times, the core values instilled in him by his parents were able to take over, when the parents were not around. I do not want to accuse Aaron H's parents of bad values, but it appears they did not instill anything that lasted, particularly once his father died and was not there to guide him.

  6. Robert says:

    Well said, Robert. Thank you for this insightful commentary. We all have opportunities in life and we can squander them or we can take full advantage. We also all have challenges – health, financial, loss of people near to us, etc. How we choose to respond is often the difference between success and failure. I believe the framing one puts around the events in one's mind makes all the difference. And those frames can be taught through mentorship of parents, coaches and friends. Sadly Mr. Hernandez never took on those good frames – perhaps he did not listen or perhaps he did not receive them, and as a result his life ended badly. Truly sad for all involved. A good reason we need to address failing schools teaching losing frames. And to me pretty much every liberal frame is a loser – everything is someone else's fault, government will solve all the problems and victims are to be located and glorified. And despite evidence from everywhere the government has become too powerful (Russia, Venezela, North Korea, etc.) life has become miserable for everyone. All as a result of a government vested with too much power.

  7. texas wolfie says:

    About OJ Simpsons trial, someone should write a book about all the players involved in that fiasco. They should Find how Lady Karma has "punished" some of these people. I know one of the defense attorneys has died, and three other defense attorneys have expressed regret for their "victory". Also, we should visit with the jurors to see how their lives are going. Book would be a sure hit. Just my opinion.

    • Robert Ringer RJR says:

      I believe Johnny Cochran died shortly after the trial of a brain tumor and Robert Kardashian died of esophageal cancer. I don't know about all the others.

    • drbsci says:

      I believe in the adversary system much too much to think that vigorous defense of a miscreant asks for karmic retribution. (BTW, Cochran died about 11 years after the trial at 68, Kardashian 9 years later at 59, hardly unusually young ages.) It would be interesting to check out the biographies of the jurors, though.

  8. Jay says:

    I don't believe he wanted to take a wrong turn, I think he was suffering from an untreated mental illness(es) that overpowered his decisions, he had lost his power of choice.

    • texas wolfie says:

      Just heard on the news that the family is having his brain examined for football related injuries that could have made him violent. I ain't buying that, I smell lawsuit against the NFL.

    • He didn't just smoke natural cannabis he smoked fake cannabis too While I am a supporter of regular cannabis I can't say the same about the other.

  9. saintquinn says:

    SIMPLE….This is violent, gruesomely ugly, uncivilized 3rd world filth that doesn't belong in a White country…..
    Aaron Hernandez probably did us a favor (before it did us a favor by killing itself) by killing a few fellow 3rd world non-white criminal filth….

    • Disgusted says:

      Your ignorant and pathetic commentary should not be included with Robert's. Saint you ain't.

  10. Steve Bate says:

    "Professional" sports. Disgusting example of fascism. Cities tax poor people to build multi-million dollar facilities for rich, politically connected team owners so that they can hire mentally sick, tatooed, nitwits and pay them millions of dollars to be extremely negative role models for our children.

    • Jim Hallett says:

      While some of that is true, it does not apply to all professional athletes, by a long shot. Aaron may have mental issues, but I am sure the environmental influences (e.g., hanging with gangbangers) was more important. He had money, role models that he could have chosen to follow (like Tebow & Brady), and innate talent, but chose to squander it. It is a sad waste, and while I have much criticism on many levels of the NFL, I would not point the primary finger of blame at them for this series of tragic events.

    • Back in the 60s I tutored some of the athletes at Iowa State U. They were hopeless. only brought there to play ball.

    • Phil says:

      Interesting point. A guy I grew up with has been involved in the building of the new Atlanta Braves stadium, funded by public monies, which was absolutely unnecessary (they already had a 20 year old stadium, paid for by tax dollars). But these days much "wealth" is created by cronyism and gaming the system to obtain public funding. I know that this individual fancies himself to be a captain of industry. Sure, if you are talking about welfare for well connected.

      • Jim Hallett says:

        Of course, the Turner Field fiasco was a major example of misguided public policy by the Atlanta and Fulton County folks. In order to get the stadium built for the Olympics, and then the Braves, local activists wanted some low income housing built and for it to be in a poorer neighborhood. The problem is that most Braves fans did NOT want to attend an event in a bad neighborhood, on top of the fact that MARTA did not even go directly there (Ted wanted all the parking revenues for himself). The year I lived in Atlanta (and I am a big baseball fan), I could see the difficulty and was amazed, despite the team being consistently excellent, they did not draw well overall. The team needed extra promotions to draw in the fans. The new Marietta area stadium is a colossal waste of public funds, but one could have predicted that back in the mid-1990's when they decided to put Turner Field in the same area where the old Fulton Co. Stadium was – an area VERY unattractive to most potential baseball fans. The Georgia Dome (and the new Mercedes Benz Dome replacing it) had direct stops with MARTA and are not immediately surrounded by blight.

  11. james says:

    he just count take life in prison

  12. Jay says:

    Rae Carruth is another one who went down the wrong path…

  13. TN Ray says:

    Great article. Maybe we will be enlightened to be take the right path when the crossroad appears. Thanks for the comparison of Tebow and Hernandez. Sad to see Tebow's opportunities cut short, Hernandez's bright career wasted. It's so important to have the right attitude, to make good decisions, and to take the right path. "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you" is a good start.

  14. Sean Baltz says:

    More great writing from one of our greatest human potential teachers Robert Ringer. I rarely disagree with him and this sober writing certainly is no exception. Every person, especially teenager, needs to read it now

  15. oldnikko says:

    Lest we forget the wisdom of the ages: "It's not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters." – Epictetus That's where one goes wrong and another goes right. Tebow and Brady learned and acted on the events in their lives correctly, Hernandez did not. Plenty of blame to go around, but it mostly falls on Hernandez himself. Parental and teachers failure… maybe, but surely he had many opportunities to learn for himself by the many real-life examples around him.

  16. Lyndon Laird says:

    Psychiatric theory can explain everything about psychopaths, serial killers, pedophiles, etc. by their upbringing. Just ask Dr. Keith Ablow. If you read his books about the killers Casey Anthony and Scott Peterson, it was virtually inevitable that they would do what they did. More troubling is the implication that they were helpless to avoid their fate.

    If upbringing is irrelevant, then why talk of Hernandez's dead father? But how many others similarly situated to Hernandez did not commit multiple murders? Some just have the Bad Seed.

    • texas wolfie says:

      Speaking of bad fathers and the effects they have on their offspring, my late father was a casual friend of a boy from an orphanage in Knoxville Tn. It seems this boys mother ran away with another man, then the father became a violent drunk and didn't want the small boy and hand delivered him to the orphanage. The boy went to work in an eatery in that town and became a whiz at cleaning up tables and and taking out trash. The boy soon was allowed to fix short orders like burgers. He went on to finally own his own burger shop. That boys name? Dave Thomas founder of the Wendy's Hamburger chain. Sometimes it just has to come from your own heart.

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  18. Katie says:

    More great writing from one of our greatest human potential teachers Robert Ringer. I rarely disagree with him and this sober writing certainly is no exception. Every person, especially teenager, needs to read it now.

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  19. myrna says:

    I believe his mother played a huge roll in his giving up! So Sad!

  20. Jose Jackson says:

    Besides an NFL career, Hernandez and OJ were most definitely were hanging out with gangs in their teen years. Somewhat surprised the Patriots chose as there were covered up incidents Hernandez had in college. Maybe rhe deliberate under reporting of crime suspected of minorties in Fliorida contributed to this happening.

  21. jacobhill859 says:

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