As the name Aaron Hernandez first found its way into the national spotlight, the high school football star seemed to have it all.

The supportive father who helped him reach incredible heights on the field. The natural talent, confidence, and drive. The high school sweetheart. The good looks.

But already a young Hernandez was tangled in a secret life, one that would slowly reveal itself as he found himself consumed by demons past and present.

His brother has now revealed to the Boston Globe that Hernandez was molested as a young child.

Advertisement

Years later, as a rising football star in his hometown of Bristol, Connecticut, Hernandez found himself in a secret sexual relationship with a teammate.

On the field, Hernandez and Dennis SanSoucie worked in perfect harmony for Bristol Central High School's football team.

Hernandez shined as a pass receiver with SanSoucie, the Bristol Rams' quarterback. In the first four games of their junior year, the pair had nine touchdown completions.

That year alone Hernandez would catch 67 passes for a total of 1,807 yards, smashing state records and catching the attention of top college recruiters across the country.

But off the field he was developing a connection with SanSoucie that went far deeper than sport.

The pair first began exploring a sexual relationship in middle school, which SanSoucie revealed continued into high school.

In high school Hernandez began to date Shayanna Jenkins, who would later become his fiancee and mother of his child.

"Me and him were very much into trying to hide what we were doing," SanSoucie, who later joined the US Marines, told the Globe. "We didn't want people to know."

Advertisement

That was partially due to their traditional community, but also in large part due to Hernandez's own home.

To outside observers, Hernandez's father Dennis was the ultimate supportive dad.

When he suddenly died at the age of 49, during his younger son's junior year, many believed it crushed Hernandez and marked the beginning of his downfall.

But his brother has since revealed that their father ran a home where homophobia was rampant and abuse was the ultimate motivational tool.

Jonathan Hernandez, the NFL star's older brother, said his father long had concerns that Hernandez 'had a feminine way about him'.

He closely watched at how his youngest son 'stood or used his hands'. And he became enraged when a young Hernandez expressed interest in cheerleading.

"He wanted to be a cheerleader. My cousins were cheerleaders and amazing," Jonathan, 32, recalled.

"And I remember coming home and my dad put an end to that real quick. And it was not okay. My dad made it clear that he had his definition of a man."

Their father also frequently threw around the term 'f****t', which Jonathan said he used 'all the time'.

"Standing. Talking. Acting. Looking. It was the furthest thing my father wanted you to even look like in our household," he said. "This was not acceptable to him."

And Dennis Hernandez was a man to be feared in the Hernandez household, ruling his sons with an iron fist.

Sometimes they came as punishment, such as when their father left Hernandez with a black eye because he drank before a school dance.

Sometimes they came when their father felt his boys weren't working hard enough in school or at football. Other times they came for no discernible reason at all.

One time it got so bad that Jonathan threatened to call the authorities. But Dennis Hernandez remained unfazed.

"I picked up the phone once to call, to seek help," he recalled. "And his response was. 'Call them.'"

"And he handed me the phone, and he said 'I'm going to beat you even harder, you and your brother, and they're going to have to pull me off of you when they knock down the door."'

Hernandez would later tell both Jonathan and one of his lawyers, George Leontire, about the sexual abuse he suffered as a child.

Both Jonathan and Leontire - who later said that Hernandez 'clearly was gay' - have refused to name his abuser.

A college girlfriend later revealed that Hernandez had also told her about being molested as a child, saying: "He never dealt with it. It led to issues in his sexuality".

It was just one of many secrets that appeared to torture Hernandez in his short adult life, to be revealed only after he committed suicide in his jail cell in April 2017.

SanSoucie himself only decided to come out to his family and friends after Hernandez's death.

"I really, truly feel in my heart I got the thumbs-up from him," he said.

Hernandez's shocking suicide came five days after he was acquitted of the murder of Odin Lloyd and two years after he had been sentenced to life in prison.

His family later donated Hernandez's brain to Boston University, which found that the 27-year-old suffered from the most severe case of CTE ever found in a person his age.

The former New England Patriots star reportedly took his own life two days after he was outed on The Kirk & Callahan Show.

He was called a 'tight end on and off the field' and a 'wide receiver' on the show.

But, as she did throughout his murder trial and after his death, Jenkins-Hernandez remained one of his ultimate defenders.

"I saw no indication that he was gay or homosexual. I wish I had known how he felt, just so we could have talked about it," Jenkins-Hernandez wrote in a foreword for a book about Hernandez's final days.

"I wouldn't have disowned him," she continued. "I would have been supportive. I can't fault him if he was feeling that way."

"When you love someone so much you just want to be there to support them. The fact that he felt he couldn't come out to me or he couldn't tell me these things hurts, because we had that bond."

"I've accepted that he may have been the way he was said to be, or that it may not be true. Regardless, I won't know."