by Kevin Manahan, USA TODAY Sports
Tim Tebow attempted to keep Aaron Hernandez out of trouble during a 2007 bar squabble while both were playing at the University of Florida, but not even the mild-mannered, Bible-toting quarterback could keep the hot-headed tight end from slugging a Gainesville, Fla., bouncer and puncturing his ear drum.
Still, after Tebow's efforts failed, it appears the school might have gotten Hernandez off the hook by reaching a settlement with the bouncer to keep him from pursuing charges, according to a supplemental investigation report on the altercation obtained by USA TODAY Sports.
Hernandez, a 17-year-old freshman at the time who had not even played a down for the Gators, got into an argument over an unpaid tab for two drinks, according to an incident report obtained by USA TODAY Sports. Hernandez was not of legal drinking age.
The report said a waitress at The Swamp Restaurant brought Hernandez the drinks, which he consumed before refusing to pay the bill. Bouncer Michael Taphorn confronted Hernandez, then asked him to leave. Outside the bar, Hernandez told police, Taphorn got into his face. When Taphorn turned to re-enter the bar, police said Hernandez hit him on the side of the head.
According to the report, Hernandez did not deny throwing the punch.
The original incident report lists Tebow only as "Witness 1," but his identity has been verified to USA TODAY Sports by Gainesville Police Department spokesman Ben Tobias and the supplemental report. Tebow, according to the supplemental report, "was concerned that his name would get out to the media as being involved in the incident," and that's why he was anonymously listed as a witness.
The incident took place around 8 p.m. ET, and Hernandez left the area immediately after the altercation. When a responding officer could not locate him, the officer interviewed Tebow, who said he tried to resolve the problem, according to the supplemental report. Tebow said he urged Hernandez to leave peacefully and tried to make arrangements to pay the bill. Later, when police interviewed Hernandez, Tebow was present.
Taphorn declined immediate medical treatment, but when he was examined the next day by doctors, they discovered that his right ear drum had been broken, an injury that would take four to six weeks to heal, the incident report said.
Curiously, police said Taphorn was adamant about pressing charges when he first spoke to officers, but when police followed up with Taphorn, he told them "that he may request the charges be dropped," an investigator wrote in the supplemental report. He added: "Taphorn did state that he had been contacted by legal staff and coaches with UF and that they may be working on an agreement. However, nothing is finalized."
"I advised him that if this was his final decision that he would have to contact the State Attorney's office," the investigator wrote.
Athough police recommended a felony assault charge against Hernandez, a juvenile at the time, no charge was lodged.
When reached by USA TODAY Sports by phone Tuesday, a man who said he was Michael Taphorn said, "I think you have the wrong person," but a database has a phone number for him that matches a contact number on the police report. That number is no longer his, but the same report did have his current phone number. Taphorn denied working at the restaurant.
Hernandez, now 23, has been charged with the murder of 27-year-old semipro football player Odin Lloyd. Hernandez, who has pleaded not guilty, is being held without bail in a Massachusetts jail. The Boston Globe has reported that Hernandez also is being investigated in connection with a July 2012 double homicide in Boston.
Contributing: Rachel Axon