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In a recent interview with ESPN the Magazine, former NFL player Rolando McClain made a very interesting and profound statement comparing himself to former Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez, who is currently sitting comfortably in a county jail facing a first-degree murder charge.
In his interview, McClain told ESPN The Magazine,“I felt like Aaron Hernandez, like I just wanted to kill somebody.” Unlike Hernandez, McClain understood and accepted his life was spinning out of control and decided to take a proactive approach before he ended up seriously hurting himself or someone else.
Despite the fame and fortune that comes with being a professional athlete, McClain made perhaps the smartest decision of his life when he decided to retire from football and focus on regaining control of his life. Very similar to Hernandez, McClain, at the young age of 23, was so full of rage he feared he would do something he would later regret. Unlike Hernandez, he ultimately decided to retire from football before those urges became reality. Leaving behind the stress associated with being a professional athlete, McClain decided to walk away so he could learn to truly be happy in life by learning ways to cope with his anger.
Should Hernandez have been of the same mentality as McClain and retired from football before his anger and self-destructive behavior resulted in murder and incarceration? Could retirement from the game have prevented the above mentioned events from occurring?
At such the young and impressionable age of 23, Hernandez should have done what McClain did and retired from the game to regain control of his life. His life was spinning out of control with heavy drug use and bad choices, blurring his perception of reality and of right and wrong. That’s not to say he should have retired from the game altogether because he was a genuinely talented athlete with so much potential, but for the sake of his fiance and baby daughter, stepping away from the game momentarily would have been the best choice for him and his family.
One of the most beneficial reasons Hernandez should have retired is that he would have been out of the public spotlight and had the time and privacy to focus on himself. He could have moved his family someplace secluded and started a fresh, new life without the public scrutiny, “friends” constantly asking for money and the wrong crowd of people he was surrounding himself with. He could have gotten the help he seriously needed and maybe surrounded himself with a much better support system. He would have been able to get to the root of his anger and learn coping strategies from a professional on his own time.
It is no secret Hernandez’s life was turned upside down when his dad unexpectedly died when he was a teenager. Family and friends reported a noticeable change in Hernandez’s attitude and outlook on life. Without a father figure, Hernandez was susceptible to the influence of the wrong crowd and without consequences for much of his actions, his bad decision making increased. This should have been a red flag for his family and coaches, and it should have been at this point in his life someone should have intervened and helped Hernandez find the help he desperately needed before things got worse.
This was especially true for Hernandez as a collegian as he was reported to have been in multiple physical altercations and even an alleged shooting. Things did not improve after college as he was accused of shooting one of his own friends and is being investigated in connection for a 2012 double murder. Of course, all these events culminated with the first-degree murder indictment along with multiple weapons charges and a possible connection to an interstate gun-trafficking operation. Could some of the events have been prevented and could Hernandez’s anger have been diffused before it escalated into murder if Hernandez retired had retired from football?
Granted, most of his issues were personal but eliminating just one aspect of trouble for him could have had a domino effect on the other demons he was dealing with. Instead of being a professional athlete, Hernandez should have seriously considered getting professional help to help discover the source of his rage and learn coping strategies for his anger.
However, it’s hard to say if retiring from the game could have prevented the situation he is in now. Football could have actually been his only escape from his tortured personal life. Being on the football field actually removed Hernandez temporarily from his life of crime and he provided him a positive and legal outlet for all his anger and aggression. After he took that Patriots jersey off, he was the angry, destructive Hernandez with no coping mechanisms for his deadly urges. Being off the field was probably the most dangerous times for Hernandez as he did not have the structure and discipline provided by the game. He was left to his own devices and had to deal with his inner demons without a strong support system.
The only way for a person to truly change is if they have the desire and will to want to change and it seems Hernandez was way beyond that point. No matter what kind of help could have been offered to him, it seems he was of one mind set and that was to inflict pain onto others who did him wrong. Unless he changed his entire lifestyle and mentality, nothing anyone tried to do could have helped Hernandez, especially not long term. Now Hernandez needs to accept responsibility for all his actions and move forward by trying to make peace with himself and work towards becoming a better human being.