His home, at least for the foreseeable future, is a 10-foot-by-7-foot cell adorned only with a bunk bed frame, a stainless steel sink-toilet combination, and a metal desk with an attached stool.
“Others would perhaps be devastated, withdrawn, have very difficult times,” Bristol County Sheriff Thomas Hodgson said at the jail Tuesday. Hernandez “didn’t seem at all nervous, which surprised me a little bit.”
Hernandez’s life changed directions quickly and dramatically, leaving former neighbors and admirers in his home town of Bristol, Conn., stunned. Many say they are unable to find words to describe how a life, or at least what was known about it, can so radically alter its course.
“Where do you start?” said Lori Hvozdovic, who works with the booster club for Bristol Central High, where Hernandez first made his name as a tight end and wide receiver.
Others, including Bob DeSantis, Bristol Central’s longtime athletic director, preferred to avoid discussing Hernandez altogether. “Maybe after a week or so, after I get a chance to digest it,” DeSantis said.
A local hero, changed
On Monday night, three men stood in a parking lot beyond the wall at Muzzy Field, the multipurpose stadium where, in September 2006, Hernandez was honored after being named to the U.S. Army All-America team. Asked about what townspeople think about Hernandez now, the men stopped smiling.
“It’s not a good time right now,” said one of the men, who declined to give his name.
Hernandez was perhaps the best football player central Connecticut ever produced. His name appeared often in local newspapers; his statistics were almost too much to believe. During one game in 2005, he had 260 receiving yards; two weeks later, he broke a state single-game record with 376 yards catching the ball.
“Everything went well” in my career, Hernandez was quoted as saying by the Hartford Courant in December 2006. “Individually I was happy with everything.”
Hernandez told reporters at the time that he liked rap music and scary movies, and his dreams kept trying to keep up with how good he really was. He once idolized his father, Dennis, and his brother, D.J., both of whom played at the University of Connecticut. Hernandez committed early to play for the Huskies too, but in 2006, things began to change.
His father died unexpectedly after routine hernia surgery in January that year, and although Hernandez remained a multisport star, his football statistics weren’t as gaudy. He dropped his commitment to Connecticut, choosing instead to sign with national champion Florida. He graduated from Bristol Central a semester early, beginning his freshman year in Gainesville at age 17.