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Many wondered why new Patriot tight end Aaron Hernandez dropped into the team’s lap in the fourth round of the NFL Draft last Saturday. Let’s just say that Hernandez has been “high on life” more than a few times.
“It’s not like he failed one test. He had repeated issues with it, to the point where you worry about whether he’ll be able to lay off the stuff at our level. To be honest, he’s super-talented and, even with the issues, I’m surprised he fell as far he did,” said an AFC college scout after being asked about Aaron Hernandez’s surprising drop on draft day.
Is he serious? Lay off the stuff? Granted smoking anything is not ideal for any type of athlete, let alone a stud collegiate athlete with aspirations to go pro. I just think the reaction from the field was a bit harsh…for two reasons:
For starters, the training collegiate athletes get nowadays is the best it’s ever been. These athletes are looked after more closely than a kid in $300 per day daycare, particularly at a big time program like the University of Florida. These guys are treated like thoroughbreds and put through strict, regimented workout programs. Staffers are always watching what the players eat like hawks, and not to mention the players have qualified, competent coaches whose full time job is to make sure they’re in top physical form to perform on Saturdays.
So, will smoking a few joints make all that time and effort to train a waste of time? Probably not. By all reports, Hernandez was completely honest about his past with all NFL teams, so if anything should be evident, it should be his maturity level.
In light of some of the recent activities that have gone on with high-profile NFL athletes, it seems to me that (ahem) alcohol use might be a more serious issue NFL scouts should be looking at. I’m sure Ben Roethlisberger’s nightmare of a night in Georgia was in some way, shape, or form induced by copious amounts of alcohol. Obviously, I wasn’t with him, but I’ve seen the pictures and am very well versed in the nuances that come along with being ridiculously drunk. It’s usually not one’s best state for making decisions. Clearly.
Former Patriot Donte Stallworth hit and killed a pedestrian who was crossing a causeway in South Florida last year. Blood tests revealed Stallworth had a blood-alcohol level above the legal limit and he was convicted of DUI manslaughter. He served 24 days of a 30-day sentence and then had a litany of community service and probation time to take care of. To repeat, he killed a guy! I’m going to go out on a limb and say if Roger Goodell didn’t suspend him for the entire 2009 season, some team starved for receiving talent and trying to make a post season run would have scooped him up. The Ravens did this off-season. Do you think they were worried about if Stallworth could ‘lay off the stuff’? Or do you think they were just worried about him putting up numbers?
For what its worth, Roethlisberger was drafted by the Steelers with the No. 11 pick in 2004 and Stallworth was drafted No. 13 pick by the Saints in 2002. I’m just speculating, but I’m sure this habit of awful decision-making wasn’t conceived between the time they were drafted and now. Granted it may have been accelerated with signing a multi-million dollar contract, but it had to have been there before.
We’re all familiar with Ricky Williams’s track record with marijuana (by the way, if you haven’t seen the most recent ESPN 30 for 30 about Ricky, I highly recommend it). How has it affected him? He’ll be 33 this May and last year he accumulated 1,121 rushing yards and 219 receiving yards to go with 13 touchdowns. By all measures, that is a phenomenal season. The great season came at the tender age of 32, no less, which by NFL standards, (particularly for running backs) is ancient.
Back to the point. The NFL is all about one thing. Winning. If you’ve got skills, somebody is going to give you a job. You don’t set records at a big time program like Florida and have no skills. Bill Belichick is tight with Urban Meyer and I’m sure there was a lot of dialogue between the two about Hernandez. It’s my opinion that if Meyer didn’t believe he could be a talent in the NFL, Belichick wouldn’t have drafted him. So, I’m looking forward to both Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski playing in a Patriots uniform this fall. At the very least, they can’t be worse than Ben Watson.