A much-anticipated docuseries on Aaron Hernandez hit Netflix on Wednesday, and over three episodes it traces his shocking and seemingly incomprehensible downfall. Between the ages of 16 and 27, the Connecticut native went from being a fun-loving high school star to a well-paid tight end for the Super Bowl-minded Patriots, only to end up committing suicide in prison after being convicted of one Boston-area murder and heavily implicated in two others.
Members of Hernandez’s family declined to participate in the series, the executive producers of which are a pair of sportswriters, Dan Wetzel and Kevin Armstrong, who appear frequently in the episodes to recount events.
Hernandez can be heard speaking with a number of people close to him, including his mother and his fiancee, in phone conversations recorded while he was in a Bristol County (Mass.) jail. In addition, the series features commentary from childhood friends, law enforcement and prison officials, defense attorneys, journalists and Patriots teammates.
His high school quarterback said they were in a sexual relationship
As with many other aspects of the series, those who followed Hernandez’s saga closely or who happened to catch a relevant headline may already have been familiar with the claims made by Dennis SanSoucie, his quarterback and close friend at Bristol Central High. Those unfamiliar with the claims, however, may well be taken aback to hear SanSoucie say they “experimented” sexually.
“We continued because we probably enjoyed it.
“Yes, we were in a relationship back then,” SanSoucie tells the camera, “but at the time, you don’t look at it like that.”
Elsewhere in the series, SanSoucie says that when news emerged that Hernandez may have had a lover in prison, his father scoffed and declared that there was no way the stud athlete he knew could be gay. SanSoucie said it took him months after that before he “broke the news” about himself and Hernandez.
SanSoucie’s father, Tim, sits next to his son and says at one point that he was “homophobic” years ago, just as Hernandez’s father was.
“Aaron was extremely terrified of his father finding out,” Dennis SanSoucie adds. “I mean, Mr. Hernandez was well known as a man’s man, a father that slapped the [gay slur] right out of you.”
While the series is understandably incapable of fully explaining what drove Hernandez to forfeit his lucrative athletic career in favor of the criminality that eventually led to at least one homicide, “Killer Inside” posits at several points that his discomfort with his sexual inclinations, or at least the way they might be viewed by others, manifested itself in angry and occasionally violent outbursts.
Other potential factors, such as his brain being posthumously discovered with a stunningly advanced case of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), as well as his father’s abrupt death when he was 16, are also explored. Yet the possibility that Hernandez was homosexual or bisexual is consistently raised in the series, including by former Patriots offensive lineman Ryan O’Callaghan, who came out as gay after his NFL career ended in 2011.
O’Callaghan appreciated the Patriots culture, pointing out that the team’s focus on winning and mandate to avoid any and all distractions made life easier for him as someone in the closet. He also suggested that Hernandez was extremely concerned about deterring any suspicion regarding his sexuality.
“I think the whole story about Aaron is really unfortunate because you don’t know what drove him to do these things,” the former offensive lineman declares. “You know, if he was able to be himself and have some of these negative things not in his life, what kind of difference would that have made?”
The series also notes that Hernandez’s older brother, DJ Hernandez, wrote in a book that there was a time when Aaron, inspired by female cousins, wanted to become a cheerleader. Their father ended that quickly, DJ claimed.