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Maine coach remembers Jovan Belcher
Jovan Belcher’s college head football coach remembered him as a “tremendous student-athlete,” in a release from the University of Maine Saturday afternoon.
“His move to the NFL was in keeping with his dreams,” said coach Jack Cosgrove. “This is an indescribably horrible tragedy. At this difficult time, our thoughts and prayers are with Jovan, Kasandra and their families.”
Belcher, 25, a native of West Babylon, N.Y., fatally shot his girlfriend, Kasandra Perkins, Saturday in Kansas City and then fatally shot himself at the Chiefs team complex in front of General Manager Scott Pioli and Coach Romeo Crennl, according to police.
Belcher, who signed with Kansas City in 2009 as an undrafted free agent out of Maine, caught the eye of former Chiefs Coach Todd Haley early that season.
“I think he’s a guy that s impressed us all from early on and I think we’ve got a potential player there. … That s a guy that needs to be on the field,” Haley told the Kansas City star.
Belcher, though on the small side for an inside linebacker at 6 feet 2, 228 pounds, started three games as a rookie with Kansas City. He became a starter in his second NFL season in 2010. He had started 10 of 11 games this season.
After a standout career in football and wrestling at West Babylon High on Long Island, Belcher joined the Maine Black Bears as a linebacker/defensive end. He was the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) Defensive Player of the Year as a senior in 2008, and he made first-team All-American in the Football Championship Subdivision. He was a co-captain.
As a rookie in 2009, he was one of seven former Maine players who made opening day NFL rosters. Maine plays in the NCAA’s Championship Subdivision, one step below the Bowl Subdivision which features teams such as Notre Dame and Alabama.
During his college career, Belcher was known as soft-spoken off the field. On the field, he was relentless and aggressive.
“You’re in the trenches, that’s where it all starts,” Belcher told the Bangor Daily News during his senior season. “It’s basically a fist fight every play.”
Belcher told the newspaper he credited his mother, Cheryl Shepard, and three older sisters with giving him support.
“My mother is a hardworking woman,” he said. “To see her overcome some things and succeed, it makes me look at things and say, ‘this isn’t even hard.’ I didn’t really have a father figure, so they provided nice guidance for me.”
According to the school release, Belcher graduated in December of 2008 with a bachelor’s degree in child development and family relations.
Dwayne Wilmot, who was Belcher’s position coach at Maine, said recalled that the easiest way to make him smile was to tell him his mother was coming to a game.
“Family was paramount for Jovan. you could see it at every game,” said Wilmot, now a coach at Yale. “His family showed up in force. He relished the opportunity to make them proud as a student and an athlete. He did what he did for their love and their adulation.
“I’m devastated right now,” he added. “Trying to hold together.”
When asked if Belcher had any off-the-field concerns in college, Wilmot mentioned he had some maturity issues but nothing out of the ordinary. He also offered that Belcher completed his college studies early.
“Kids ages 18-22, they all have things they’d like to do over,” the coach said. “When I was that age there were things I’d like to do over. To see him grow and evolve in that time, it is an absolute and utter shock to be talking about Jovan in the past tense.
“What you saw was the burning desire to be successful,” he continued. “If he had the opportunity, he’d make the most of it … this is a tragic end, but his life had a greater good than just this tragic end.”
by Gary Mihoces, USA TODAY