(CNN) -

Aaron Hernandez was destined to be a football superstar and was already one of the NFL's most promising tight ends.

But less than a year after signing a $40 million contract extension with the football powerhouse New England Patriots, he was charged with first-degree murder.

Two hours after his arrest on June 26, 2013, the Patriots dropped him from the team.

Hernandez, then 23, pleaded not guilty in the slaying of Odin Lloyd and is being held in a Massachusetts jail without bail. Hernandez has also been charged in the slayings of two other men, and some of his closest associates are facing serious charges in connection with the alleged crimes.

Friends and fans alike wonder: How could the star player who had more than 900 receiving yards in 2011 now be accused of murdering three people?

From 'golden boy' to behind bars

Long before Hernandez made national headlines, he was a standout athlete in Bristol, Connecticut, who came from a family described as a local sports dynasty.

"I don't think there was another family that was more familiar in Bristol," Bob Montgomery, who covers high school sports for the Bristol Press, told CNN.

The young Hernandez was the "golden boy," playing football, basketball and running track, following in the footsteps of his uncle, older brother and father -- all well-known athletes in the community.

Hernandez's father constantly pushed his son, requiring him to practice for hours before he could go out with friends.

"I saw a closeness with them that I'd never seen before," Montgomery said of the relationship between Hernandez and his father.

But his father, the man who kept the 16-year-old anchored, died from complications after a routine surgery.

Hernandez left high school halfway through his senior year in January 2007 to join the University of Florida Gators, and trouble seemed to follow.

In just his first semester, a police report says Hernandez got into a fight at an off-campus restaurant, sucker-punching the manager and rupturing his eardrum.

The following fall, there was a shooting near a local club. Police reports link Hernandez and several other University of Florida football players to an argument in the parking lot.

Hernandez was one of more than 20 people interviewed by police, and he was the only one who did not make a statement after invoking his right to counsel.

At the time, Hernandez's mother told the Orlando Sentinel newspaper, "I know he was at the club, but he never saw any shooting."

The case remains open, and no one has been charged.

Hernandez was also suspended at least once for marijuana, an issue that would follow him as he entered the draft his junior year.

Trying to put the alleged drug use behind him, Hernandez wrote a letter to the Patriots' director of personnel.

"If you draft me as a member of the New England Patriots, I will willfully submit to a bi-weekly drug test throughout my rookie season. ... In addition, I will tie any guaranteed portion of my 2010 compensation to these drug tests and reimburse the team a pro-rata amount for any failed drug test," he wrote, according to the Boston Globe.

Before the draft, Hernandez was expected to be a first or second round pick. He was passed over until the fourth round, when the Patriots selected him.

By the end of the second season, he was a bona fide star, inking the five-year contract extension worth $40 million.

One month before signing the deal, however, he was partying at a Boston club. That same night, two men from the club were found dead.

Did spilled drink lead to slaying?

Investigators allege Hernandez shot and killed Daniel Abreu and Safiro Furtado on July 16, 2012, because one bumped into him on a nightclub dance floor and spilled his drink.

District Attorney Patrick Haggan described the scene in a Massachusetts courtroom in May, saying Hernandez became "angered and increasingly agitated, particularly after Mr. Abreu smiled and did not apologize."

Hernandez's friend tried to calm him down, and the pair walked outside and eventually entered a second club across the street, the prosecutor said. Court documents identify that friend as Alexander Bradley, who would go on to accuse Hernandez of shooting him in the eye in an incident that would take place seven months later.

After leaving the second nightclub, Hernandez and the friend returned to their SUV and pulled over on a nearby street where Hernandez removed a revolver from the engine block, Haggan said.

Hernandez began trailing Abreu, Furtado and three of their friends in his SUV, authorities said.