Straight and narrow

Published 5:02 pm Wednesday, April 19, 2017

The seemingly never-ending saga surrounding Aaron Hernandez came to an abrupt halt Wednesday when the former New England Patriots superstar tight end was found in his cell after allegedly hanging himself.

For every story there is of an athlete using his talents to climb out of poverty and provide for his family, it seems there’s one of someone with all the potential in the world squandering it on his own.

Hernandez had made over a decade’s worth of bad decisions leading to his apparent suicide this week. His father passed away in 2006 when Hernandez was 16, seemingly propelling him into a downward spiral. His criminal history is well documented and began with a bar fight in Gainesville, Florida, in 2007.

Multiple shootings and a murder conviction later, Hernandez went from being, at the time, the highest paid tight end in the NFL to another criminal rotting in prison.

It doesn’t take years of poor decisions for an athlete to fall from grace and waste his talents. Eastern North Carolina knows all too well how one bad choice can ruin an athlete’s chances at a better life.

Brien Taylor grew up in Beaufort. His family had little, but Taylor’s pitching abilities could have changed that all. As East Carteret’s ace, he commanded the area with a 29-6 record and a 1.25 earned run average. He notched 213 strikeouts to just 28 walks during his high school career.

Some called him the greatest high school pitcher there ever was. The New York Yankees chose the lefty first overall in the 1991 MLB Draft. The Yankees took Derek Jeter a year later with the sixth-overall pick.

Taylor never helped Jeter build a dynasty in New York, though. He injured his throwing shoulder in a fight while home in Beaufort during the offseason. His pitching was never the same. He lost 8 mph from his fastball and couldn’t locate his curveball. He excelled in the minor leagues, but never made it to the majors.

Beaufort County is home to some incredible athletes. Some, such as Edrice “Bam” Adebayo, are on that path to superstardom. Others are primed to continue playing at the college level.

One mistake can ruin any opportunity — advice that’s not just for athletes. Be mindful of how each choice can affect the future.