Iowa's Hernandez carries brother-related burden

Iowa's DJ Hernandez is Aaron Hernandez's brother

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You canít always be your brotherís or sisterís keeper, or your sonís or daughterís, or your motherís or fatherís.

Not when they are adults who commit crimes, or are charged with them.

The victims and their loved ones obviously deserve the most sympathy when heinous, violent crimes have been committed. But in most cases, compassion is also warranted for family members of the accused and convicted. Their lives are shattered, too, for actions they never would have condoned.

Thatís what Iowa football graduate assistant coach DJ Hernandez is facing. His brother, now-former New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez, was arrested last Wednesday and charged with first-degree murder. He is being held without bail in the Bristol (Mass.) County House of Correction and Jail. Odin Lloyd, 27, is dead.

The brothersí father, Dennis Hernandez, died in 2006 because of complications from hernia surgery. Their mother, Terri Hernandez, said this to USA Today in 2009:

ďIt was a rough process, and I didnít know what to do for (Aaron). He would rebel. It was very, very hard, and he was very, very angry. He wasnít the same kid, the way he spoke to me. The shock of losing his dad, there was so much anger.Ē

Three years before Aaron was named the Connecticut High School Football Player of the Year, quarterback DJ got the same honor at Bristolís Central High.

DJ was a two-year captain for the University of Connecticutís football team. Aaron verbally committed to UConn as a prep sophomore, but his reputation as a player soared, and he eventually signed with Urban Meyerís Florida program.

DJ made the deanís list at UConn in 2007 and 2008. He was the head football coach at Southington (Conn.) High in 2010, was the quarterbacks coach at Brown University in 2011, and was a graduate assistant who worked with receivers and special teams at the University of Miami in 2012.

ďDJ comes highly recommended and will work with our tight ends,Ē Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz said in February.

Iowa offensive line coach Brian Ferentz was the Patriotsí tight ends coach in 2010 and 2011, the first two of Aaron Hernandezís three very productive seasons as a New England tight end. Kirk Ferentz may have known him DJ for several years, because he offered Aaron a scholarship to play at Iowa, and coaches often get familiar with recruits' entire families.

Last week, Kirk Ferentz was asked about DJ Hernandez. ďHeís fine,Ē Ferentz said. ďHe was here working last week like everybody. Heís doing fine.Ē

Iíve never met DJ Hernandez. Just how close he is to his brother, I donít know. DJ was on the sideline at the Patriotsí organized team activity in Foxborough, Mass., on June 5.

Within the last two weeks, The Gazette asked for interviews with Brian Ferentz and DJ Hernandez. Monday morning, I made a similar request to Iowa sports information director Steve Roe.

ďI can say that both DJ and Brian Ferentz, who coached Aaron in NE, have declined all requests so far.Ē Roe replied via email.

I would have done the same thing in their positions. But the reality of this situation are that, fairly or not, media outlets will continue to want to speak with Aaron Hernandezís brother, and with the Iowa head coach who hired Aaron Hernandezís brother, and with the Iowa assistant coach who worked with Aaron Hernandez in New England. And maybe even with players who are mentored by Aaron Hernandezís brother.

You can set the agenda for a lot of things if youíre Hawkeye football, but this isnít one of them.

This story on the Hartford Courantís website Monday didnít help matters. Three adult males were arrested at about 3:15 a.m., on Saturday at a West Hartford diner and charged with third-degree assault, breach of peace, and third-degree criminal mischief.

According to the Courantís story, someone shouted ďHey, Aaron HernandezĒ after seeing someone in the diner the person thought looked like the accused murderer. A fight broke out. Two of the three people who were arrested told police they had been sitting with DJ Hernandez.

West Hartford Police Lt. Frank Fallon told the Courant that police ďhave no ideaĒ if DJ Hernandez was actually in the diner. If he was, he had left before the police arrived. This story says Hernandez was there, with Roe confirming it.

Even with a best-case scenario that he wasnít there, the story still illustrates what life can be like for the brother of a famous person charged with murder.

It makes for a very delicate situation, even for something as comparatively trivial as Hawkeye football. But practicalities are practicalities. Iowa will seemingly rely on tight ends a lot this fall. Theyíll need focused coaches to guide them.

On a much more important level, of course, Odin Lloydís family and so many other people including DJ Hernandez are carrying numbingly heavy burdens because someone used a gun to kill. 

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