Rob Gronkowski has been understandably reticent to speak about his former teammate Aaron Hernandez. Back in 2013, he walked out of a CBS News interview after repeated questions about his fellow tight end on the New England Patriots. The story only got sadder as accusations turned to convictions and incarceration eventually led to Hernandez's suicide in 2017.
It has somehow been eight years since Hernandez's double life came to light and Gronkowski has himself gone through a great deal of change, maturing in ways many didn't expect him to and gaining some perspective. Asked on The Ringer's 10 Questions With Kyle Brandt podcast to reflect on how much the tragedy has stuck with him, Gronk had this to say:
"Aaron was a great football player. I get questions like that all the time about him and with everything going on, I was definitely shook when I heard that, when I heard everything about it because just being his teammate ... you really don't really see that. You're not really looking into players like that's who they are or that's what they're doing. I just try to keep it simple and light. He was a great football player but that doesn't mean anything. You learn from other people, too."
It'd be an easy critique to say Gronkowski took a meandering route to get where he was going with the answer. Yet he did answer. And anyone who has found out someone they thought they knew wasn't who they pretended to be knows how difficult it can be to sort through all of the complex emotions.
With that as background, this seems like a very human answer.
As the years have passed and more and more of Hernandez's former teammates have spoken about their naivety at the time, it's become crystal clear that it's hard to really know anyone. Especially for an athlete in their early-20s. That's such a self-involved time for people in all professions, let alone someone who is flush with newfound fame and wealth.