Former UConn quarterback “D.J.” Hernandez shed his nickname for his middle name, Jonathan, several years back in one of several attempts to reinvent his life following the incarceration of his more famous brother.
Still known to most, first and foremost, as “the brother of Aaron Hernandez,” Jonathan was named the new head football coach at Ledyard High School (Connecticut), which is about an hour and 15 minutes away from the Hernandez family hometown of Bristol, in January. Jonathan had quit coaching for several years, likely in search of anonymity, as he ran his own roofing business in Dallas before taking the Ledyard job.
“This is a great fit for my family,” an excited Hernandez told The Day in Connecticut. “We’re getting everything packed right now. I’m really excited to get (to Ledyard), meet the players, parents and other students, and build on their tradition.
“I know (Ledyard) wants stability and someone who can go in and motivate and challenge these students. I’m excited about the challenge. I’m going to make sure the guys understand that they can’t achieve unless they work hard, and smart, throughout the process. I want to be a positive role model and a mentor … that’s what it’s all about.”
The ugly past
“I just want you to know, because you’re my brother and I love you: He was found, and they’re trying to investigate, and my name is being thrown around.”
The above is how Aaron Hernandez told his older brother that he was in major trouble following the death of Odin Lloyd.
In a 2016 Sports Illustrated piece by Michael Rosenberg, D.J. went into great detail about his extremely close relationship with his brother – which became even stronger following the death of their father, Dennis. Dennis Hernandez passed away when Aaron was 16-years-old.
D.J. has a tattoo over his heart that reads:
THERE’S NO OTHER LOVE LIKE THE LOVE FOR A BROTHER.
THERE’S NO OTHER LOVE LIKE THE LOVE FROM A BROTHER.
Here are some of the quotes from Jonathan in the outstanding SI piece:
“He had a very big heart. That’s what’s craziest about all this. There is a disconnect. He would open up his arms to anyone.”
“I just know he cared about people. And some of the people he cared about, I wasn’t too fond of. I didn’t think they were the best for him at that stage in his life. But he cared so much. He really did. It’s very interesting … how much he cared.”
On Aaron’s emotional state after the loss of their dad:
“I saw a kid who was devastated. I think he was confused. He was lost. He cried, but only at moments. Crying is not always the answer, but being an emotional family, for him to put up a wall during the services … it was shocking to me. He was holding everything in. Our bodies just reacted differently.
“Everyone is programmed differently. For example, a guy might give me the finger. You might get so mad, you turn around and chase him – there’s people that do that. But I’m not going to waste me time. How I took things and how my brother took things [after our dad’s death], even that is completely different.”
On Aaron becoming a top football prospect:
“I think he was insecure. I think he cared a lot about what people thought of him. Your entire life, you’re being judged by people. He was always looking for: Was that good enough?”
If their father was still alive, would things have been different?
“That’s the million dollar question, how my father-if he was still alive, how everything would have changed. I think it would have been completely different. But I don’t know. That’s a fairy tale.”
On Aaron dropping in the NFL Draft due to character issues
“I’m just upset that he had the opportunity to be a first round draft pick, stuff that we talked about at the top of the hill when we were doing suicides. I’m not pissed that I couldn’t do it; I wasn’t good enough. He had the ability to be a first round draft pick, and the mental makeup. And he f**ked it up by some of the decisions he made in college.”
On never asking his brother, straight up, if he ‘did it’
“Whether Aaron did or did not do it, I don’t know. And honestly, it’s irrelevant. It really is. He’s in a situation because he decided to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, with the wrong people.”
His relationship with his brother the past few years
“I’m done with it. My days are too busy to stay home and watch trials. We’ll talk. I still love him. That’s not going to change. If I see him out here one day, the first thing I’m going to do is give him a hug and a kiss, just like we used to do with my father.”