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16 January 2020 02:40

Aaron Hernandez Michael B. Jordan Jamie Foxx

On 15 April, 2015, Aaron Hernandez, once a tight end for the New England Patriots, was found guilty of murdering Odin Lloyd, a semi-professional football player. Two years later, on 19 April, 2017, Hernandez died by suicide in prison, days after being acquitted on most charges in a different, double murder case. The Hernandez story has lived on as a shocking page of the National Football League's history, understandably so – the New England Patriots, for whom Hernandez still played at the time of 2013 his arrest in the Lloyd case, are considered one of the league's best ever teams, home to Tom "greatest quarterback of all time" Brady. Hernandez was 21 years old when he played alongside the Patriots during the 2011 Super Bowl. Playing alongside a team like the Patriots during America's biggest sporting event of any given year, in your early twenties, is a life-defining event.

Before his arrest, Hernandez was a sports superstar by most metrics, having signed a reported $40m, five-year extension contract in 2012. A new Netflix documentary, Killer Inside: The Mind of Aaron Hernandez, takes a closer look at Hernandez's life and career, and their shocking unravelling. In three one-hour episodes, the series analyses many aspects of Hernandez's undoing, and – in the words of director Geno McDermott and producer Terry Leonard – "examines the perfect storm of factors leading to the trial, conviction, and death of an athlete who seemingly had it all". It is also likely to reignite conversations about brain injuries and their possible role in Hernandez's story – as well as that of other NFL players. Handmaid's Tale (2017-) Hulu's adaptation of Margaret Atwood's 1985 novel, set in a pious patriarchal state, lost its way in the second series, but the first, which arrived a few months after Trump entered the White House, was a triumph.

The Americans (2013-2018) Where other series burn brightly and fade after a couple of years, FX's Cold War spy drama took its time. This is England (2010-15) The first spin-off series from Shane Meadows' 2007 film, about a gang of ex-skinheads from the Midlands, was set during the 1986 World Cup, and remains one of the great British dramas, depicting working class lives with humanity and humour. Doctor Ann McKee, the director of Boston University's Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy Center, told the press in 2017 that Hernandez suffered from stage-three CTE that "we've never seen… in our 468 [examine] brains, except for individuals very much older". Killer Inside: The Mind of Aaron Hernandez touches on the topic of brain injuries, albeit briefly, and rightfully focuses on many other potential factors in his life (from his sexuality to his reported vision of masculinity). The amygdala, which was affected in Aaron Hernandez as well, is involved in emotional regulation, emotional behaviour, fear, and anxiety." Doctor Munro Cullum, a neuropsychologist, warned in Fortune magazine that "the complexities of human behaviour and the brain from which it derives often defy our attempts to comprehend" and that "we cannot infer that microscopic findings in a brain at autopsy prompted someone to commit a specific act such as murder several years earlier".

Junior Seau, Dave Duerson and Jovan Belcher, all former professional football players who died by suicide, all showed signs of CTE, according to experts. All-American at both high school and the University of Florida, Aaron Hernandez would go on to be an NFL tight end for the New England Patriots and play in Super Bowl XLVI. His stellar football career would come to an abrupt end and be eclipsed when he was charged with the murder of semi-pro footballer Odin Lloyd. Convicted of the crime and sentenced to life imprisonment without parole, two years later Hernandez committed suicide in his jail cell. Aaron Hernandez was captain of the Bristol Central High School football team. January 2007: Hernandez enrolls at the University of Florida having graduated high school early January 6, 2010: Having received the John Mackey Award as the nation's best collegiate tight end for his junior season at Florida, Hernandez announces he will forgo his senior season and enter the NFL draft. April 23, 2010: Hernandez is drafted by the New England Patriots in the fourth round of the NFL Draft August 27, 2012: Hernandez signs a five-year, $40 million contract extension with the Patriots "This place changed me as a person, because you can't come here and act reckless," Hernandez said at the time. September 6, 2013: Hernandez pleads not guilty to the murder of Lloyd. May 15, 2014: Hernandez is indicted on two counts of first-degree murder and other charges in connection with the 2012 shootings of de Abreu and Furtado. January 9, 2015: Hernandez goes on trial for the murder of Lloyd. February 14, 2017: Hernandez goes on trial for murder in the 2012 killings of de Abreu and Furtado September 21, 2017: It is revealed Hernandez had been suffering from chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a degenerative brain disease, at the time of his death. Aaron Hernandez's downfall from football star to convicted murderer is one of the most notorious cases to emerge from not just the NFL, but the sports world at large. In 2015, the former New England Patriots tight end was convicted of murdering Odin Lloyd, a semi-professional football player who was the boyfriend of Hernandez's fiancée's sister. Two years later, the 27-year-old Hernandez hanged himself in his prison cell, days after he was acquitted of a separate double homicide. A new documentary series from Netflix, Killer Inside: The Mind of Aaron Hernandez, explores the tumultuous life of the football player, investigating the forces in his life that could have driven him to violence. The series, an extension of director Geno McDermott's 2018 documentary My Perfect World: The Aaron Hernandez Story, seeks to understand who Hernandez was beyond the headlines that tracked his dramatic rise and fall inside the NFL. Weaving together news footage, trial footage, interviews with friends and former teammates and recordings of phone calls Hernandez made from prison, the three-part series, out Jan. 15, argues that several factors contributed to Hernandez's behavior. Following Hernandez's death, a study of the ex-football player's brain found that he suffered from the worst case of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) doctors had found in a person his age. Killer Inside begins with footage of Hernandez's arrest in 2013 in connection with Lloyd's murder, before diving into the football player's early life growing up in Bristol, Conn. The Hernandez family was "known as a sports family," says Tim Sansoucie, the father of Dennis Sansoucie, a high school football teammate who says he was a lover of Hernandez's, in the documentary. Hernandez's late father, Dennis Hernandez, a football star in his own right, had a reputation as "the king," Sansoucie said — controlling a tight ship that ensured his sons would become athletes. As the series depicts through the recollections of family friends, Hernandez's personal life began falling apart after his father's death in 2006. Despite the violence he allegedly endured, according to the series, Hernandez looked up to his father for discipline and a sense of stability. That evaporated after Dennis' death, contributing to Hernandez's eventual turn toward criminal behavior and drug use while still in high school, the documentary argues. Dennis Sansoucie, who shares that he eventually came out to his father after Hernandez's death, says the macho atmosphere associated with football allowed him and Hernandez to conceal that they were homosexual. Two days before Hernandez died by suicide, the journalist Michele McPhee, who had been looking into his sexuality as a possible motive for Lloyd's murder, began discussing and joking about the rumor on a Boston sports radio show. Following Hernandez's death, an article appeared in Newsweek by McPhee that claimed his sex life was being investigated as a potential motive. Interviews in the documentary with Sansoucie as well as ex-Patriots offensive tackle Ryan O'Callaghan, who hid that he was gay while playing professional football and came out publicly in 2017, underline the idea that the sport did not offer clear avenues for players to be open and proud about being gay. Hernandez left high school early to play for the University of Florida in 2007, breaking a family tradition of attending and playing for the University of Connecticut, where, the documentary shows, the football player skillfully masked a double life using his privilege as a star athlete. In one instance, Hernandez is alleged to have beaten up a bar manager who tried to give him his bill; the manager did not pursue charges, likely because of the celebrity status football players were afforded. The documentary shows that the patterns Hernandez developed in Florida, like playing football successfully by day and then spending his spare time with friends who did not call him out for bad behavior, continued with ease back in New England. Hernandez became a suspect in the 2012 double murder of Daniel de Abreu and Safiro Furtado and was later charged in the case (he was acquitted in 2017). The case was based largely on testimony of Alexander Bradley, a friend of Hernandez who later said the football player shot him in the face in 2013 in an attempt to keep him silent about the double homicide. On June 17, 2013, Hernandez killed Lloyd, a person who, by all accounts, he had considered a friend. It suggests that perhaps without the combined forces of the aggressive, macho culture of the NFL, the brain damage wrought by a career in professional football and the friends and family that encouraged his worst tendencies, Hernandez could have gone a different way.