Afterward, Hernandez said he had failed a single drug test in college, reportedly for marijuana, and was honest with teams about it.
And the Patriots seemed like the perfect fit.
Even before Belichick became the coach, the organization tried to maintain a delicate balance _ publicly stressing good character while signing players with questions in their past.
In 1996, New England drafted defensive lineman Christian Peter from Nebraska in the fifth round even though he had been arrested eight times, accused of grabbing one woman around the throat and of sexually assaulting a former Miss Nebraska. “They’re not all choir boys in this league,” then-coach Bill Parcells said, but the team _ spurred by the wife of owner Bob Kraft _ soon relinquished its draft rights to him.
Nor has Belichick shied away from players with troubled pasts more recently, though none faced charges as serious as Hernandez. Among the players signed by the Patriots were receivers Randy Moss and the one known at the time as Chad Ochocinco; defensive backs Alfonzo Dennard, Aqib Talib and Brandon Meriweather; running back Corey Dillon, and offensive lineman Nick Kaczur.
Most had questions about their personal lives before coming to New England, already wearing out their welcome with one or more other NFL teams. Some ran into legal trouble only after signing with New England. Others, like Moss and Dillon, produced on the field for a while before the Patriots grew tired of them, too.
A South Florida man filed a lawsuit last week claiming Hernandez shot him in the face after they argued at a strip club. The man, who lost his right eye, told police after the February incident that he did not know who shot him.
The Boston Globe reported that Hernandez lost his temper and threatened teammate Wes Welker during an argument in the team’s weight room shortly after being drafted.
But Hernandez became a father to a daughter on Nov. 6, and he said it made him think.
“I’m engaged now and I have a baby. So it’s just going to make me think of life a lot differently and doing things the right way,” he said. “Now, another one is looking up to me. I can’t just be young and reckless Aaron no more. I’m going to try to do the right things, become a good father and (have her) be raised like I was raised.”
Howard Ulman contributed to this story from North Attleborough and Michelle R. Smith contributed from Attleboro.