Aaron Hernandez, the former New England Patriot tight end, was found dead in his prison cell early Wednesday morning, having hung himself with his bedsheets from his cell window, according to the Massachusetts Department of Corrections. Hernandez was serving life without parole for being found guilty of the death of Odin Lloyd. Last Friday, Hernandez was found not guilty of murder charges in the deaths of Daniel de Abreu and Safrio Furtado.

Hernandez leaves behind a four-year-old daughter, who Hernandez was seen blowing kisses to during his trial last week, as well as his fiancee who was fiercely loyal to him, taking his last name despite not being married to him.

The Aaron Hernandez story has been the most incredible fall from grace I have seen in my lifetime. I wasn’t around for the O.J. trial and the accompanying circus, so for me and many in my generation, Hernandez was our O.J. A star college football player. A pro career worth notice. A man who seemingly was charitable and giving. Then out of the blue, a connection to murders.

I was in a condo in Duck, North Carolina when I first heard the news about Hernandez in 2013. The news caught me and my friend, a New England fan, completely off guard, as it did with everyone else. The shot of Hernandez in cuffs, hands behind his back in his white t-shirt, head tilted as Massachusetts police escorted him out of his house. That image is still inexplicably tied to 90-degree beach weather in my mind.

To say that Hernandez was a complicated figure is to put it lightly. We’re all well aware of his crimes and alleged crimes, showing us the dark side of a gifted athlete. But he also appeared good and kind hearted, at least in many of his actions before his conviction. He donated $50,000 to a New England Patriots charity immediately after signing his 41 million dollar contract in 2012. Following that, owner Robert Kraft said this:

“I just think he’s a super player, and really a first-class guy. Some people might see all the tattoos on him and think. … Maybe 10 years ago I was in that class, (now) I think ‘Wow, this guy’s a good guy.'”

Knowing what we know now, that quote seems crazy. Because we know he wasn’t a good guy.

The evil that became Hernandez was not one that he brought from a rough upbringing, unlike most who end up in situations Hernandez was in. He grew up in Bristol. He had a relatively stable family. He had a natural talent for football. And he threw it all away. He threw away a possible ring or two. He threw away a fiancee, who was the sister of Odin Lloyd’s girlfriend at the time of his murder. He threw away a daughter.

Because he wanted to thug.

There are many levels in the tragedy of Aaron Hernandez. There are the many dead bodies left in Aaron’s wake: Odin Lloyd, Daniel de Abreu, Safiro Furtado. The most tragic aspect of Hernandez was himself. He went from superstar highs of mansions and luxury to the few metal belongings he had to jam against the door to buy him enough time to die.

But don’t get me wrong. I have no love for Hernandez. His fall from grace was his own, carved out by himself alone. Massachusetts law makes possible for Hernandez’s charges to be dropped after his suicide, technically making him an innocent man. Regardless of whether this opportunity is pursued, Aaron Hernandez’s image is already set: irredeemable.

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