Countdown to 2013 King of Content: 7. Aaron Hernandez
It's no secret that great athletes tend to get more leeway when it comes to bad behavior.
All the wrong reasons.
If you're a good enough college football player, many head coaches will either look the other way or give you a mere slap on the wrist if you decide to behave badly. In the NFL, they will take into consideration the amount they pay you and the amount of trouble you're worth and as long as their nebulous calculation of those two variables lands on the right side of the line, you'll probably keep your job.
But eventually, a crime can be committed so heinous and a line can be crossed so indefensible that it's no longer up to your team to determine if you're worth their trouble anymore. The police will determine if you're worth society's trouble anymore.
Aaron Hernandez is learning this lesson the hard way.
Growing up in blue-collar Bristol, Connecticut, Hernandez was best known for two things -- to the world, he was known as a superhero of a high school football player, the rare Connecticut high school player good enough to thrive in the SEC. To those in and around Bristol, in tighter quarters, he was known for running with a hard crowd.
As we learned in the past several months, he never really stopped running with that crowd, and not only did he run with them, but he might have been the ringleader.
We all knew Hernandez had his problems with discipline at the University of Florida. It was issues with marijuana use that led to the 2009 Mackey Award winner (nation's top tight end) falling all the way to the fourth round of the draft to the New England Patriots. However, for the first three years after the precipitous draft weekend fall to the Pats, it appeared that all of this may have happened for a reason, as Hernandez thrived in New England.
Hernandez combined with another 2010 draftee, tight end Rob Gronkowski, to give the Patriots and quarterback Tom Brady an unconventional array of offensive weaponry. Together, the two rookies redefined how teams viewed, scouted and rostered the tight end position. Ultimately, a 2012 Super Bowl appearance was followed by lucrative contract extensions for both rookie tight ends.
Suddenly, come summer of 2012, Hernandez was ridiculously wealthy, and still only 22 years old. He had the world by the balls, and it appeared that landing in New England had been a God blessing.
As it turns out, it was a geographic nightmare.
With only 90 minutes of highway separating Foxborough and Bristol, Hernandez still had easy access to his hometown, and even worse, his hometown still had easy access to him. As it turned out, guns, drugs and thug friends were still a regular part of Hernandez's social diet, just as before, only now he had a much bigger house.
That house, a mansion in North Attleboro, Massachusetts, became a fixture on the news back in June after the body of Hernandez associate Odin Lloyd was found in a nearby industrial park. Lloyd had been last seen with Hernandez and two other associates the night before. That house was where Hernandez was filmed by security cameras pacing frantically with a gun in his hand, and that house is where he began his perp walk, arrested for the murder of Odin Lloyd a few days after Lloyd's body was discovered.
Today, Hernandez sits in a Massachusetts jail cell awaiting trial, having pleaded not guilty to Lloyd's murder. Meanwhile, people close to Hernandez continue to eerily drop dead under mysterious circumstances back in Connecticut.