“If you f- me over, I’ll kill you.”
Those were the chilling words former Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez, a convicted murderer who killed himself in prison earlier this week, said to the NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, then the Patriots beat writer for the Boston Herald, during a conversation in the locker room during Hernandez's rookie season in 2010.
Rapoport recalled the conversation as part of a panel of three reporters who covered Hernandez during his high school, college, and NFL playing career before he was convicted of the murder of semi-pro football player Odin Lloyd.
The roundtable, which also included ex-Hartford Courant reporter Shawn Courchesne and former Florida Gators beat writer Jeremy Fowler of the Orlando Sentinel, was put together by Sports Illustrated's Kalyn Kahler in an attempt to understand the influences that led the talented football star down a troubled path that ended in murder and his own death.
Rapoport recalled Hernandez being quiet, reserved and uncomfortable with the publicity he received, which was substantial, considering his locker was next to fellow rookie and media magnet Rob Gronkowski.
Looking back on his time covering Hernandez, Rapoport explained he would hang out by Hernandez’s locker and the two would talk, eventually exchanging numbers.
“When we first exchanged numbers, he called me over and said, “Hey, I just want you to know, you’re my guy. If you need anything, let me know, I will help you out if I can. But I just want you to know, if you f- me over, I’ll kill you,”’ Rapoport recalled.
After the conversation, Rapoport said he turned toward CBS Sports reporter William Bendetson, who overheard the conversation, and both laughed and quickly moved on to other topics. But the discussion, and the humorous threat, soon took on new meaning.
“[The] first text I got after it became clear that Hernandez was the suspect in the murder investigation was from William Bendetson, who was like, 'Hey, remember that day in the locker room?' ” Rapoport said.
Rapoport said he felt sad for both Hernandez and his family, noting that the talented athlete certainly didn’t mean for his life to end up as it did.
“He was someone that I knew and liked and then later found out there was a lot more that I didn’t know. But he also has a daughter and a family, and the victims and their families don’t get any peace now,” Rapoport said. “I was just really sad for him, for what his life became, for everyone. I don’t know. I just felt sad. The whole thing sucks.”