It’s now fashionable to dump on accused murderer Aaron Hernandez, and for good reason. He allegedly killed one man, and he may have killed two others.

Former teammate Deion Branch has opted for a different path.

“Aaron is a great guy and a great friend of mine and a great teammate,” Branch told the Albany Herald at his eighth annual Skills and Drills Camp at Albany State University, via Tom Curran of CSN New England. “I love him to death, and it was shocking to hear his name involved in this situation. I truly hope and pray he doesn’t have any dealings with it.”

It’s looking less likely all the time that Branch’s hopes and prayers will be answered. Still, he’s demonstrating a degree of loyalty that is uncommon in cases like this.

“That’s my guy, man,” Branch said regarding Hernandez. “That’s my guy. It really shocked me. He was a great kid. Overall, I hope the best that he isn’t involved with it and I hope he gets his name cleared, but most importantly I send my prayers and condolences out to the Lloyd family.”

Hernandez may be acquitted but his name will never be cleared. More importantly, Odin Lloyd will never be going home, and Branch is sensitive to that.