(NECN: Latoyia Edwards) - For much of his childhood, it look as if football would be the way out for Odin Lloyd.
He was a talented player at John D. O'Byrant School of Mathematics and Science, a hard-hitting linebacker who helped his team contend for the championships.
But when his grades slipped, so did his chances of playing pro ball.
Further complicating things was his family life - with his father out of the picture, Odin was the man of the family, taking his mother to church and caring for his two sisters.
Mike Branch, his defensive coach at O'Bryant and his coach with the Boston Bandits, sensed the void in Odin's life and became like a big brother.
Coach Branch is on a mission to push his Boston Bandits into the best shape possible.
The coach wants the semi-professional team to be stronger and faster, to win as many games as possible in tribute to their teammate Odin - nicknamed "O" - who was murdered weeks before the start of the 2013 season.
"And that's why the fire burns, because I know how the fire burns for O. It just still bothers me. You just think, is there anything else different we could have did? If he was in trouble, would he have told us? And that's why I don't believe he knew he was in trouble because he wouldn't have gotten into that car," Branch says.
Before Odin Lloyd's killing on June 17, you would have found him at Blue Hills Fitness with the rest of his Boston Bandits teammates, lifting weights and getting ready for the season. He worked on his agility by playing basketball.
"Odin did rededicate himself because he did put on about 10 to 15 pounds of muscle, and I was like that's the dude I know right there. He was like, 'Coach, I am bringing it,'" Branch says.
Coach Mike had seen Odin bring it many times on the football field. He first began coaching Odin in 2004 in high school at their shared alma mater, the John D. O'Bryant School of Math and Science in Boston.
Ironically, the coach believes Odin's exceptional football knowledge may have been one of the key ingredients to his unlikely friendships with former NFL tight end Aaron Hernandez, who ultimately would be charged with Odin's murder.
"One thing about Odin, he was X and O smart. He could read and he knew the game, and that probably is one thing that put him and that other individual together. Again, I am not going to give him the credit of saying his name, but that might have been the tie, besides the two young ladies in their life, is the game. Because I'm going to tell you Odin played tight end in high school as well. He was older than that individual that I'm not going to mention his name, so I wouldn't be surprised if they spoke X's and O's and he said some things about it. He knew the game very well," Branch says.
Aaron Hernandez has pleaded not guilty in the murder of Odin Lloyd.
"You think of the kid who grew up in one of the toughest areas of Boston, getting murdered in Attleboro, North Attleboro," Branch says, recalling the day he learned Odin had been murdered. "Something starts adding up, and you start putting one and one together, and you figure out where it's going. Listening to the arraignment, I remember, at work, and I had to close the door because I broke down just hearing the gruesomeness and how it was done."
The coach is also struggling with allegation reportedly made by Hernandez's fiance, Shayanna Jenkins, about Odin. According to a 156-page affidavit released by Attleboro District Court. Those same documents say investigators interviewed two dozen people who knew Odin, but couldn't find anyone who would described him as a drug dealer.
"He don't have the money and resources. Who does? There wasn't a scale found on Mr. Lloyd or in a rental car that was in that individual's name in front of the house. There was a scale found somewhere else. So again, to be that type of drug dealer, you got to have resources," Branch says.
The coach then showed NECN a text message reportedly sent by Odin in May requesting help with football equipment. Coach Mike says it proved Odin was cash-strapped and not a drug dealer. The text message reads, "I forgot to remind you about those pads and those rib protectors for Will. I gotta work till 5 tomorrow."
"Why would he ask me to get him shoulder pads? Why would his dues not be paid? Why when we go out for beers I would pay for them? If he had it, he would give it. I know the kid, and throughout the various years. When he would make payments if he had it, I would get a payment of $5, $2, $3, $10, $20. It doesn't fit. Doesn't fit," he says.
Did Odin ever talk to Coach Mike about Aaron Hernandez?
"Yes he did. He said that individual was a cool individual," he says. "He never said nothing negative about him, and it came up when I was talking about going to a Patriots game and I was saying I got good seats and he chirped in and said, 'I'm going too,' and I said, 'Odin' - excuse my language - 'with your cheap ass you ain't going to the game. You ain't going because you are cheap and you ain't got no money.' And he was like, 'Coach, you don't know.' So he mentioned that individual and they started hanging out more and that he was sitting in the friends and family section," Branch says.
So how will Coach Branch move on from this tragedy?
"I don't really think you do move on. I think you just keep him in memory, and you try to dedicate the season to him," he says. "The player I am not going to be able to replace. The person, I can never replace."
Click here for Latoyia Edwards' interview with Odin Lloyd's girlfriend.
Click here for Latoyia Edwards' interview with Odin Lloyd's sister and best friend.