Aaron Hernandez was found dead in his cell early Wednesday morning in what has been ruled a suicide that came less than two weeks after he had been found not guilty in his most recent double murder trial. Hernandez’s conviction in the 2013 killing of Odin Lloyd, for which he was serving a life sentence for when he killed himself, caused many that covered the former star tight end in New England and in college at Florida to think back to whether there were any signs that he would possibly do such a thing.
The MMQB posed that question and more to reporters from Hernandez’s days with the Patriots and Gators, and while most insisted that, while they knew of his checkered past, they never could’ve foreseen this coming. The one response that sticks out from the rest, though, comes from Ian Rapaport, now of the NFL Network but formerly of the Boston Globe. Rapaport recalls a conversation he had with Hernandez by his locker when the two exchanged numbers so Rapaport could reach out if he needed some information — he’s now one of the league’s top newsbreakers. The conversation included a curious remark from Hernandez that, at the time, Rapaport laughed off as a joke, but after Hernandez’s conviction he thinks very differently about.
“Yeah, there is one that I think about a lot,” Rapaport said. “I would end up hanging around by his locker a lot. He would do his interviews and we would chat. There weren’t a lot of guys that were just hanging out in the locker room, especially during those years, so we would hang out and we would talk. When we first exchanged numbers, he called me over and said, ‘Hey I just want you to know, you’re my guy. If you need anything let me know, I will help you out if I can. But I just want you to know, if you f*ck me over, I’ll kill you.’ I sort of laughed a little bit, and I said, ‘Don’t worry, I got you, I’ll take care of you.’ It was me and this other reporter from CBS Sports, WIlliam Bendetson, and he was standing there and had listened and we kind of turned to each other and both laughed. And then the first text I got after it became clear that Hernandez was the suspect in the murder investigation was from William Bendetson, who was like, Hey remember that day in the locker room?”
In hindsight, that’s obviously a bit more chilling of a response than it seemed at the time. Hernandez’s legal battles aren’t over, as his appeal of the Lloyd murder was never completed. Should that become overturned, his estate could be owed millions in base salary and signing bonus from the Patriots that was withheld following his arrest and subsequent conviction.