Hernandez's background scrutinized by NFL teams before draft
NORTH ATTLEBORO, Mass. -- Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez, who has been connected to a possible homicide this week near his home in North Attleboro, Mass., has been dogged by off-field issues dating at least to his time at the University of Florida, multiple NFL and law enforcement sources have told SI.
Hernandez was questioned by police on Monday, a source told SI. His house was searched for more than two and a half hours Tuesday evening by a dozen state police investigators. Hernandez is not believed to be a murder suspect.
Police are investigating the death of a male, whose body was found on Monday at an industrial park less than a mile from Hernandez's house. A vehicle rented in Hernandez's name has emerged as a key piece of evidence, and police are trying to locate another vehicle -- a 2013 Chrysler 300 -- that was also rented under Hernandez's name.
The victim of the possible homicide was identified Wednesday as Boston Bandits semi-pro linebacker Odin Lloyd, according to WBZ News. Lloyd was dating the sister of Hernandez's girlfriend, WBZ reported. Lloyd was shot in the head, according to ABC News.
The probe likely will cause investigators to scrutinize Hernandez's complicated past.
On June 13, a Hernandez acquaintance, Alexander S. Bradley, filed a civil complaint against Hernandez in U.S. District Court alleging that a gun -- in Hernandez's possession illegally -- discharged and shot Bradley in the face, causing the loss of his right eye. The suit alleges Hernandez and Bradley argued at Tootsie's strip club in Miami. The gun discharged while Hernandez, Bradley and other associates were returning from Miami to Palm Beach.
Four days later, on Monday, Bradley dropped the suit. It is not known if there is a connection between this incident and the North Attleboro case.
Hernandez fell to the fourth round of the 2010 draft in part because of marijuana use while with the Gators, something he admitted to NFL teams at the scouting combine when he was a draft prospect, according to several NFL sources.
Personnel sources from multiple NFL teams tell SI that they had off-field concerns about Hernandez. In particular, the questions pertained to alleged gang activity of some of Hernandez's associates in his native Bristol, Conn. A law enforcement official familiar with Hernandez reiterated concerns about his circle of influence.
Combined, the marijuana use and gang concerns worried some NFL teams immensely.
"There were a lot of teams that had him off the board," said an NFL personnel executive.
But with the Patriots, Hernandez has been little problem for the team. Teammates described him as enthusiastic with some minor maturity issues, but not to the point of being a problem. At times the team had a tough time corralling him as far as staying focused on the field, but nothing beyond that.
"He really is a great kid at heart," said one former teammate. "He was a great teammate, just loves football. Won't find many guys who practiced harder."
Independently, both a former and current New England teammate said that they believed Hernandez was having some trouble with his past associates and was seeking distance from them. Bristol, Conn. is just a two hour drive to Hernandez's home.
"It was a thug life," is how one teammate described some of Hernandez's friends.
Hernandez was the youngest player in the NFL, 20, at the start of his rookie season. He's still just 23.
Hernandez's older brother, D.J., has been well respected in his career as a college assistant coach at Brown, the University of Miami, and now the University of Iowa. Hernandez was a two-time captain as quarterback and receiver at the University of Connecticut.
Both brothers had to endure the loss of their father, Dennis, in 2006 at the age of 49 due to complications from hernia surgery. D.J. was 19, Aaron 16 at the time. The death of Hernandez's father was one of the reasons why Hernandez decommitted from UConn and chose to play for coach Urban Meyer and the Gators.