Hernandez had been expected to be one of the keys to the New England Patriots' stellar offense, a vital cog on a team that many expected could contend for a Super Bowl title.
Now he's sitting in a Massachusetts jail cell.
His stoic expression in videos after his arrest, including when he was in court, gave little indication of angst, sorrow or inner turmoil.
Yet the fact he's behind bars, charged with such a heinous crime, has shaken many in New England.
His former team said firing Hernandez was "simply the right thing to do."
On Friday, the team took another step in cutting its ties to the former University of Florida star, and letting fans do the same. Having already taken his No. 81 off the shelves, the team announced people who had already bought such a jersey could exchange it for free for another player's at the New England Patriots ProShop the weekend of July 6 and 7.
"We know that children love wearing their Patriots jerseys, but may not understand why parents don't want them wearing their Hernandez jerseys anymore," team spokesman Stacey James said. "We hope this opportunity to exchange those jerseys ... will be well-received by parents."