It was back in 2017 when the news came out that Aaron Hernandez died by suicide while serving a life sentence for the murder of semi-professional football player Odin Lloyd, who was dating the sister of his fiancee.
It has now been three years since that day and Some of his former teammates teammates from the University of Florida is still struggling to cope with his passing.
“I think of Aaron almost every day at some point,” says a former teammate from the University of Florida that spoke to PEOPLE. “He crosses my mind all the time, and I talk about him with other guys from the team. We just can’t figure out what happened. We just can’t wrap our minds around his downfall.”
Everything came crashing down when the former tight end for the New England Patriots was arrested in 2013 for the murder of Odin Lloyd and subsequently convicted. He would soon be charged in connection with the fatal drive-by shootings of Daniel Jorge Correia de Abreu and Safiro Teixeira Furtado.
Hernandez was acquitted of the double homicide in April 2017, but days later, he would inexplicably be found dead in his prison cell after hanging himself with a bedsheet.
“The former teammate tells PEOPLE that Hernandez was a gifted football player, but displayed a quick temper even back in 2007, when he was a key member of the Florida Gators’ national title team.
“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.”
Hernandez was accused of punching a bouncer at a Gainesville establishment while out with ex-teammate Tim Tebow. He had to break up the fight, but Hernandez ruptured the victim’s eardrum.
He also spoke on Hernandez’s sexuality.
“The teammate tells PEOPLE that Hernandez also struggled with his sexuality, despite his long-term relationship with Jenkins. During his life, he had romantic relationships with both men and women.
“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. It wasn’t his only struggle, but it was a struggle for a guy like Aaron.”
Those who knew him on a personal level are acknowledging his death anniversary, but not condoning his behavior when he still walked the earth.
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“I look at the things Aaron did and they make me sad,” says the teammate. “He did a lot of things that should not be celebrated in any way. But he was a man who many people loved, and on that level, he should be remembered. Everyone can learn from his mistakes; that’s the way to make sure that his life wasn’t in vain.”