The Boston Globe’s “Spotlight” team has written an extensive six-part story on former New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez and his downfall. Part 1 of the series came out this morning and included a number of troubling details about Hernandez’ youth. Part 2 dropped this evening.
The newest edition in the “Spotlight” series is titled “Lost In ‘The Swamp” and covers Hernandez’ time at the University of Florida, where he played football.
Former Florida head coach Urban Meyer is featured heavily in this new edition. Much of the new story focuses on how Hernadez graduated high school early, allegedly with the pushing of Meyer, so he could enroll at Florida a semester before the football season started. This is now a common practice in major college football, but Spotlight’s new story makes it seem like this was a bad choice for Hernandez.
“If I had it to do over again, I would have fought tooth and nail not to let that kid graduate at midyear, not to let him go to Florida at midyear,” said his high school principal, Dennis Siegmann, in his first extended interview about Hernandez. “Had we had a longer time with him, maybe we could have changed things.”
Maybe. But Siegmann succumbed, as many have, to the persuasive powers of Urban Meyer.
The hard-charging coach had traveled to Bristol. Siegmann said they met alone in the principal’s office. He recalled Meyer telling him that Hernandez “has to graduate” six months ahead of the rest of his class.
Meyer was at the forefront of a growing but controversial trend to have elite recruits take summer school classes and finish high school early — a practice that he defended to the Globe in an interview last week. The goal was to start college in January so Hernandez could learn the offense and play spring football.
Meyer addressed this aspect of the story in comments to The Globe:
Meyer told the Globe that he and his staff tried their best to help Hernandez, who they knew had arrived on campus in emotional turmoil.
Meyer said he did not recall meeting with Hernandez’s high school principal and “never pushed someone” to graduate high school early, although he sees it as a positive jump-start to college for many recruits.
And he minimized his role in bringing Hernandez to Florida, saying it was mostly the work of his assistant coach, Addazio, and that he got involved “in the back half of the recruiting.” Addazio, who is now head coach at Boston College, declined to comment.
Meyer was also asked by The Globe what he would’ve done differently with Hernandez if he could go back in time:
Asked what he could have done differently with Hernandez, Meyer paused 20 seconds before responding.
“I really don’t know,” Meyer said. “I saw a distressed person when he came to our place, we tried to surround him with really, really quality people and we monitored him very closely and then he went on to an NFL career. So I’m trying to think . . .
“That’s a tough question.”
You can view the full story here.