GAINESVILLE -- Florida freshman tight end Aaron Hernandez and two of his teammates went clubbing after Florida's 20-17 loss to Auburn. Problem?
Keep in mind that Hernandez, 18, is not old enough to drink. Not saying he was drinking. The club he was at Saturday, The Venue, admits 18-year-olds. Regardless of what Hernandez and two other Gators were doing at the club, should Florida's coaches be concerned that their players were out on the town after a loss?
I say no. I realize I'm probably in the minority on this one but football players are college students, too. And what do college students do on a Saturday night in Gainesville? They go to the club/bar/pub. Florida coach Urban Meyer realizes this and he leaves it up to his players to make the correct decisions when they're out on the town. Florida's coaching staff also encourages upperclassmen football players to counsel the team's youngsters. Sometimes it works (Brandon James) and sometimes it doesn't (Ronnie Wilson).
The only difference between a college football player being at the club and Joe Blow college student being at the club? Everybody at the club knows the football player. This is usually a good thing. Free drinks, lots of friends, etc.
But being a football player at the club turns into a bad thing when there's a shooting outside the club. This is what happened early Sunday morning after the loss to Auburn. There were plenty of witnesses to the crime and plenty of witnesses knew that, Hey, detective, there were some football players here. Maybe you should ask them?
Hernandez and two other Gators were at the club, according to Hernandez's mother, who spoke with the Orlando Sentinel on Monday night. (The Miami Herald tried to speak with Mrs. Hernandez but that conversation ended quickly. My ear is still ringing. Note to self: Keep the phone numbers of football players' parents on speed dial so you're the first person to call said parents. Surprise attacks are key in this business. Note to Ms. Hernandez: I don't blame you for hanging up on me. In fact, I applaud you for it. I would have done the same. What can I say? A reporter's gotta do what a reporter's gotta do.)
Just like police detectives gotta do their jobs. The Gainesville police department interviewed Hernandez and the two other players. Former Gator All-American Reggie Nelson, now with the Jacksonville Jaguars, was also at the club that night, according to the police and Nelson's agent. Nelson was also questioned. None of the football players are suspects in the crime. They weren't even witnesses to the crime, according to Nelson's agent and Hernandez's mother. But when a police detective starts interviewing a bunch of drunked club-going witnesses about a shooting outside a nightclub, chances are the club's VIP list is going to get mentioned. (Ahh, the price of being famous. Sigh.)
Florida fifth-year senior Andre Caldwell saw no problem with Hernandez and Company being at the club that night after Florida's loss. "That's part of college life," he said.
Is Caldwell right or wrong?