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Harty: It’s hard to imagine D.J. Hernandez’s pain

[ 0 ] July 24, 2013 |

CHICAGO — I couldn’t begin to imagine the pain and devastation and shock that Iowa graduate assistant coach D.J. Hernandez must have felt when his younger brother was arrested for murder last month.

While the rest of the nation tries to make sense of the Aaron Hernandez murder case, D.J. Hernandez has to live with it for every second of every day. D.J. probably falls asleep every night and wakes up in the morning thinking about his brother’s situation and how things went so terribly wrong.

It’s not D.J.’s fault that his younger brother allegedly made some life-shattering decisions. But that still doesn’t make it easier to cope with such an awful reality.

What makes it easier are the people that D.J. now works with on a daily basis, beginning with Iowa football coach Kirk Ferentz.

“I’ve talked to D.J. several times,” Ferentz said Wednesday at Big Ten media day. “It’s first of all a very highly-visible thing and it’s his brother. If any of us put ourselves in his shoes, you can just imagine the gamut of emotions that’s he’s going through.

“I’m sure he cares an awful lot about his brother and is worried about his future.”

Say what you want about Ferentz being too conservative and too stubborn and too this and too that. But don’t ever accuse Ferentz of not caring about the people who work under him.

D.J. Hernandez, 27, should feel fortunate to be where he is now because he works for a boss who is a father and husband, first and foremost. You don’t raise five children like Ferentz and his wife, Mary, have without understanding the importance of family.

The nightmare for D.J. started when Aaron Hernandez was charged with first-degree murder for the death of 27-year old Odin Lloyd in late June. Aaron Hernandez was released by the New England Patriots, for whom he played tight end, less than two hours after his arrest.

He has since pleaded not guilty and is being held without bail.

“I’m not judging what’s happened because I don’t know what’s happened,” Ferentz said. “There is a lot of speculation right now. But it’s a very difficult situation for everybody involved. D.J., to me, is a tremendous young man.”

Ferentz made it clear Wednesday that he has no regrets about hiring D.J. Hernandez to coach the Iowa tight ends. Ferentz shouldn’t have any regrets because D.J. has done nothing to embarrass the Iowa program to this point. D.J. isn’t his brother’s keeper, nor should D.J. be judged by his brother’s alleged behavior.

Perhaps the biggest risk with having D.J. on the staff is that it might cause distractions down the road, although, Ferentz doesn’t seem worried about that.

D.J. already has avoided one possible distraction when he left a diner in Connecticut in late June shortly before a brawl broke out. The brawl allegedly started after a customer in the diner mistakenly thought D.J. was his younger brother.

“I talked to him about it, and as far as I know, he did the proper thing,” Ferentz said.

There is no way to prepare for the situation that D.J. now finds himself in. You just take it one day at a time and rely on your family for support, both your blood relatives and your football family.

D.J. probably looks forward to practice starting in less than two weeks because it’ll be easier for him to stay preoccupied and not dwell on his brother’s situation. D.J. will be with people that care about him and he’ll be coaching the game that he loves so dearly.

His ordeal is far from over, though, because it’s uncertain when Aaron Hernandez’s case will go to trial. The best thing D.J. can do is stay on the right course in life and not let his brother’s situation bring him down. D.J. has been given a good opportunity at Iowa and it’s up to him to make the most of it.

Judging from what Ferentz said Wednesday, he expects D.J. to meet the challenge.

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Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football

About Pat Harty: Columnist Pat Harty has been covering the Iowa Hawkeyes for the Press-Citizen since 1991. Originally from Des Moines, he currently writes columns and covers Hawkeye men's basketball for Hawk Central. View author profile.

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