Life for Aaron Hernandez’s family—his mother, fiancée and daughter—will never be the same after the football star was found guilty of murder on Wednesday, and the reality is “saddening,” Maurice Clarett, another onetime football star, tells TIME in an interview.
The former Ohio State running back-turned-author said he had been upset to hear that Hernandez, 25, was accused of shooting and killing an acquaintance after a personal conflict while he was a star tight end for the New England Patriots. For his part, Clarett knows what it’s like to go from football star to convict: he spent more than three years in prison on robbery and concealed weapons charges, which derailed his career.
“It’s like you’re going to develop and live an entire different reality,” Clarett tells TIME of how it feels to be convicted of a serious crime. “It’s like an emptiness. This huge gaping feeling.”
Prison time tears families apart, Clarett said, and he foresees a difficult future for Hernandez now that he’s preparing to spend the rest of his life in prison.
“One parent will be taken out. You’re repeating your own cycle,” he said.”Children, they’re victims as well.”
Clarett says that his daughter still asks him questions about the time he spent in prison and that it hinders his ability to be the father he wants to be. Hernandez has a daughter, too, and she’ll likely only be able to see her father during short prison visits as she grows up, Clarett said.
That doesn’t mean Hernandez isn’t guilty or shouldn’t have received a life sentence, Clarett added. But he believes that athletes entering the professional sports world should undergo more intensive education and training to prepare them to be role models.
“They never really teach these guys to think. When I grew and I experienced, it just came from self-education,” he said. “You need to educate.”
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