Aaron Hernandez' Conflict Over Sexuality Was Part of Larger 'Struggle,' Ex-Teammate Says

Steve Helling

When Aaron Hernandez arrived at the University of Florida in 2007, he seemed destined for greatness.

At 6-foot-4 and 245 pounds, he was strong and fast, and he quickly became a key member of the Florida Gators’ 2008 national title team. 

But privately, Hernandez was in pain. His father had died in 2006, and he was still dealing with conflicting feelings over the death of a man he claimed had abused him. He also had struggles with his mother, Terri, with whom he had a volatile relationship.

“One minute she was dead to him, the next minute, he wanted to call her to see how she was,” a teammate tells PEOPLE.

At college, Hernandez was involved in two violent incidents, both in his first year.

“Everything about Aaron was a struggle,” the teammate says. “He had these really angry outbursts a lot, over insignificant things. And when he started, he couldn’t stop.”

The teammate tells PEOPLE that Hernandez also struggled with his sexuality. During his life, he had romantic relationships with both men and women.

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“He wanted to be the big man on campus who was having sex with a lot of women, but then he’d find guys on the down low,” the teammate says. “The girls were public, the guys were not.”

Netflix is investigating the life of the former Patriots tight end in Aaron Hernandez, the Killer Inside, a three-part documentary that will be released on January 15.

Once a young star in the NFL, Hernandez’ violent streak cost him everything as he became entangled in multiple criminal cases. In 2017, he died by suicide when he hanged himself with a bed sheet in prison. He was 27.

Hernandez’ death came just five days after he was acquitted of double murder charges in the deaths of two men outside a Boston nightclub in 2012. Found not guilty in one case, he was already serving a life sentence for masterminding the 2013 murder of Odin Lloyd, his fiancée’s sister’s boyfriend. He was not eligible for parole.

Chris Christo/The Boston Herald/AP

RELATED: Aaron Hernandez’s Prison Suicide Notes Released — ‘Love, Repent … I’ll See You All in Heaven’

In an interview last year, Hernandez’s older brother told PEOPLE that Aaron suffered physical, emotional and sexual abuse before devolving into a life of violence.

“He had a lot of things happen, both good and bad,” Jonathan Hernandez told PEOPLE. “People think they know about my brother, but they really don’t. They know what they saw in the news, but they don’t know all the struggles he faced.”

The teammate agrees. “He was constantly struggling against his demons, and no one could help him no matter how hard we tried,” he says “He was just too angry and too self-destructive. It was sad.”

If you or someone you know is considering suicide, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), text “STRENGTH” to the Crisis Text Line at 741-741 or go to suicidepreventionlifeline.org.