It wasn’t a suicide note that former NFL star Aaron Hernandez left in his prison cell when he reportedly hanged himself.
Instead, the Massachusetts corrections officers who discovered his body Wednesday morning saw “John 3:16” written across Hernandez’s forehead in red ink. A Bible in the cell lay open to the same verse.
Hernandez seemed to want to send a message.
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life,” the New Testament verse reads.
Hernandez was a convicted murderer, serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole, and one who had led what many would deem an irreligious life — brawling and using illegal drugs. In 2013 a jury convicted him of killing semipro football player Odin Lloyd.
But at times in his life, Hernandez also seemed to try to ground himself in religion — perhaps to ease a guilty conscience or to help keep his career on track, some have suggested: He signed a $40 million contract with the New England Patriots in 2012.
Or perhaps Hernandez was a genuine believer. Perhaps all three.
John 3:16 is one of the most widely quoted verses in the New Testament and is frequently invoked before death. The verse is carved into many a Christian’s gravestone, perhaps because it seems to sum up the Christian faith as well as any sentence in the Bible: Believe in Jesus, and you will enjoy everlasting life.
Martin Luther, the 16th-century German monk and theologian who sparked the Protestant Reformation, reportedly called John 3:16 “the gospel in miniature.”
More recently, the verse has been linked with football.
* It was written in former star quarterback Tim Tebow’s eye black, the grease or strip applied under the eyes to reduce glare, at a…