Has there ever been a faster fall from grace than that of former Florida Gators tight end Aaron Hernandez?
The last remnants of the now incarcerated former Gator great have officially been removed from University of Florida’s campus after the brick commemorating his 2009 All-American season was pulled up Thursday. Each of the school’s All-American selections is honored with a brick outside the stadium.
The University Athletic Association issued the following statement shortly after the news broke of the brick’s removal:
“We didn’t feel it was appropriate to celebrate Aaron Hernandez. We put together an immediate plan after the initial news broke to remove his likeness and name in various private and public areas in the facility, such as the South Endzone team area, locker room, football offices, Heavener Complex, Kornblau Lobby and the brick display entrance to the football facility.”
Hernandez, who played at Florida from 2007-09 under former head coach Urban Meyer, is arguably the best tight end in school history. As a junior in 2009, he was named an All-American, was first-team All-SEC, won the John Mackey Award, given annually to the nation’s best tight end and helped the team win a BCS National Championship. He entered the 2010 NFL Draft following his junior season and was drafted in the fourth round by the New England Patriots.
The Patriots released him after he was charged with murder in June. He is currently being held without bail after pleading not guilty to first-degree murder.
The decision to remove the brick may be seen as a bit premature by Florida. What if the legal process plays out and, although it appears highly unlikely, Hernandez turns out to be innocent? Then what would UF do? Would they have to put the brick back? However, UF is not alone in distancing themselves from Hernandez. A few other organizations have disassociated themselves from Hernandez as well. The Pro Football Hall of Fame, in Canton, Ohio removed an award-winning photograph of Hernandez from public view. EA Sports took Hernandez out of its “Madden NFL 25” and “NCAA 14” video games.
Hernandez’s story continues to be a sad reminder of just how quickly someone who seemed to have everything going for himself can just as quickly throw it all away. He is just 23 years old. He just signed a $40 million contract last August with $16 million in guaranteed money. He just bought a new home with his fiancé and eight-month-old daughter.
Despite how sad Hernandez’s story may be, it should not take away from the real tragedy in all of this, which is the death of 27-year-old Odin Lloyd. But it is a shame to see a person with an apparently bright future ahead of him throw it all away over something seemingly so stupid.
Now whenever Hernandez’s name is brought up in a conversation, instead of talking about his numerous accomplishments on the football field, the topic will always allude to what could have been…