Jovan Belcher

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Jovan Belcher
Jovan Belcher.JPG
Belcher at a game in Denver in November, 2010
No. 59
Linebacker
Personal information
Date of birth: (1987-07-24)July 24, 1987
Place of birth: West Babylon, New York
Date of death: December 1, 2012(2012-12-01) (aged 25)
Place of death: Kansas City, Missouri
Height: 6 ft 2 in (1.88 m) Weight: 228 lb (103 kg)
Career information
High school: West Babylon (NY)
College: Maine
Undrafted in 2009
Debuted in 2009 for the Kansas City Chiefs
Last played in 2012 for the Kansas City Chiefs
Career history
Career highlights and awards
  • AP All-America Second-Team (2007)
  • All-CAA First-Team (2007)
  • CAA Defensive Player of the Year (2008)
  • Consensus (AFCA, AP, TSN) All-American First-Team (2008)
Career NFL statistics
Tackles 257
Sacks 1.0
Interceptions 0
Forced fumbles 1
Stats at NFL.com

Jovan Henry Allen Belcher (July 24, 1987 – December 1, 2012) was an American football linebacker who played for the Kansas City Chiefs of the National Football League (NFL). He grew up in West Babylon, New York and was a standout high school athlete before attending and graduating from the University of Maine, where he played for the Maine Black Bears football team. Belcher was named an All-American twice in college after switching in his junior year from linebacker to defensive end.

Belcher was considered a strong small-school NFL prospect, but was not selected in the 2009 NFL Draft. He was later signed as a free agent by the Chiefs and became a regular starter at inside linebacker in 2010. His most productive season was in 2011, when he had 61 tackles and 26 assists. He was re-signed by Kansas City before the 2012 season and played in the team's first 11 games.

Belcher died on December 1, 2012, in a murder-suicide, killing his girlfriend, 22-year-old Kasandra Perkins, before driving to the Chiefs' training facility and shooting himself in the head with a hand gun.

Early years[edit]

The son of John Belcher and Cheryl Shepard, Belcher grew up on Long Island, New York, and attended West Babylon High School in West Babylon, New York.[1] He wrestled and played football there under head coach Albert Ritacco between 2001 and 2004.[2] He was a three-time All-American as a wrestler, and played as a linebacker, offensive tackle, nose guard and fullback on the football team.[1] He was captain of the football team for two seasons and led West Babylon to two Long Island Football Championships playoff appearances, although the team did not reach the title game.[1] The team had its first-ever undefeated regular season in 2004, when Belcher was a senior, but lost in the Suffolk County Championship game.[1][3] The school retired his number 52 jersey, and he returned to the school frequently later in his career to give pregame speeches to the team.[4]

Though he had an accomplished high school career – Belcher was a second-team All-Long Island selection in 2004 and was named to Newsday's list of the best players of the decade for the 2000s – he was not heavily recruited by major college football programs.[5]

College career[edit]

Belcher attended the University of Maine, a Division I FCS school, and played on its Black Bears football team.[1][6] Playing as an outside linebacker, he was fourth on the team in tackles in his first two seasons, registering 58 as a freshman in 2005 and 52 as a sophomore in 2006.[1]

Belcher had a standout season as a junior after he was switched from linebacker to defensive end.[1] The Associated Press named him a second-team All-American, while Sports Network named him a third-team All-American.[1] He led Maine's collegiate conference, the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA), with 10 sacks and 17 tackles for a loss.[1] His sacks total was seventh-highest in the nation.[1]

Belcher was named a second-team preseason All-American by Lindy's Publications before his senior season in 2008, when he also served as a team co-captain.[1] He led the CAA again with 17.5 tackles for losses. He also had 7.5 sacks and was the association's defensive player of the year.[1][7] After the season, Belcher was named by the American Football Coaches Association and the Walter Camp Foundation as a first-team All-American in the Football Championship Subdivision, a grouping of smaller schools in the National Collegiate Athletic Association's Division I.[8] He was the fourth multiple-time All-American in Black Bears history, following John Huard, Aaron Dashiell and Stephen Cooper.[8]

Belcher, who was a strong student in high school and college, graduated from Maine with a degree in child development and family relations.[5] "He always did his work, sat right up front," Ritacco, Belcher's high school coach and 10th-grade biology teacher, said later.[5] After graduating from college, he won an Academic Momentum Award from the National Consortium for Academics and Sports' Scholar-Baller Program.[7]

Professional career[edit]

2009 NFL Draft[edit]

Prior to the 2009 NFL Draft, Belcher was considered one of the best small-school prospects and was expected to move to outside linebacker in the NFL.[9] He was projected by Sports Illustrated as a sixth-round draft pick.[10]

Pre-draft measurables
Ht Wt 40-yd dash 10-yd split 20-yd split 20-ss 3-cone Vert Broad BP
6 ft 1⅜ in 243 lb 4.88 s 1.64 s 2.89 s 4.25 s 7.07 s 30 in 9 ft 0 in 19 reps
All values from Maine Pro Day[11]

Kansas City Chiefs[edit]

After going undrafted, Belcher signed a free agent contract with the Chiefs in March 2009.[6][12] At 228 pounds, he was considered small for an inside linebacker, but made three starts as a rookie and played in all of the team's games.[7][13] He had 33 tackles and two assists as Kansas City finished with a 4–12 win-loss record for last place in the AFC West division.[14] Belcher became a regular starter in the 2010 season, registering 53 tackles and 31 assists.[15] The Chiefs finished with a 10–6 record and reached the playoffs.[15] Kansas City lost 30–7 to the Baltimore Ravens in the wildcard round; Belcher had one and a half sacks and nine tackles in the game.[15][16]

Belcher continued as a starter in the 2011 NFL season, recording 61 tackles and 26 assists.[13] Kansas City finished last in the AFC West with a 7–9 record, and head coach Todd Haley was replaced by defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel with three games remaining in the season.[17] Belcher was involved in community activities in Kansas City in 2011, visiting a nearby military base and a local elementary school to promote an NFL program for children.[7] He also traveled back to West Babylon every year and gave motivational speeches to students.[2]

The Chiefs re-signed Belcher in March 2012 to a one-year contract worth around $1.9 million.[7] Prior to his death, Belcher played in 11 games during the 2012 season, including 10 starts.[7] He had 33 tackles and five assists as the Chiefs started with a 1–10 record.[18][19]

Death[edit]

The Chiefs practice facility near Arrowhead Stadium where Belcher killed himself

By late 2012, Belcher was living with his girlfriend Kasandra Perkins and their three-month-old baby Zoey at 5401 Crysler Avenue in Kansas City.[20][21] Belcher and Perkins had been introduced through Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles, whose wife was a first cousin of Perkins.[22] Perkins had also done volunteer work in the community and with the Chiefs as part of its Women's Organization, a group of players' wives and significant others who do charity work and run awareness campaigns.[23][24] Friends said the couple argued frequently, including after Perkins returned at 1 a.m. from a Trey Songz concert at the Midland Theatre on the night of November 30. After the argument, Perkins went to the Power and Light District, an entertainment area by the Midland and Sprint Center in downtown Kansas City.[25] Belcher was also in the Power and Light District with a different woman.[26] After losing the woman in the crowd, Belcher drove to her apartment, but she was not home.[26] Police found him there at 2:50 a.m. after receiving a 911 call about a suspicious person in a car parked on Armour Boulevard.[27][28] He told police he was waiting for his girlfriend and forgot the code to her apartment. The police discussed the temporary tags on the car and urged him to go inside the building, saying they were "trying to cut [him] a break here."[29] Belcher did not smell of alcohol and was not slurring his words, police said.[29] He was later buzzed into the building by neighbors and allowed to stay the night.[26]

Belcher returned home between 6:30 and 7 a.m., argued again with Perkins and shot and killed her in front of his mother, Cheryl Shepherd.[20][21][26] Police arrived at the house at around 7:50 a.m. following a call from Shepherd, who had recently moved there from West Babylon, New York to help the couple care for Zoey.[20][30] The baby was heard crying in the background when Belcher's mother called.[27] Perkins, who was 22, had been shot a total of 9 times in the neck, chest, abdomen, hip, back, leg and hand.[31][32][33]

After killing Perkins, Belcher drove his Bentley about five miles to a parking lot at the Chiefs' practice facility next to Arrowhead Stadium.[34] He stepped out of the car with a gun to his head when he encountered Chiefs general manager Scott Pioli. Belcher told Pioli he killed his girlfriend and thanked him before asking for him (Scott Pioli) and Chiefs owner Clark Hunt to take care of his daughter.[34] Pioli tried to persuade Belcher to drop the gun. Then Chiefs Head Coach Romeo Crennel and linebackers coach Gary Gibbs arrived and joined the effort.[34] Police had been dispatched to the scene at 8:01 a.m.[21] As the sound of sirens approached, Belcher told the men he had to kill himself and "can’t be here”.[34] He knelt down by a car, made a sign of the cross and shot himself in the head.[34] A photograph from the scene showed Perkins' blood smeared over the chrome gearshift of Belcher's black 2007 Bentley Continental GT as well as broken glass on the dashboard.[35]

On January 14, 2013, the Jackson County Medical Examiner's office released autopsy reports showing Belcher had 170 mg/dL of alcohol in his system, double the legal limit in Missouri.[36]

Aftermath[edit]

The killings orphaned Belcher and Perkins' daughter, who was born on September 11.[37] Chiefs players planned a fund to support the girl, who was placed in the temporary custody of Belcher's mother.[20][37] Shepherd planned to take Zoey with her back to West Babylon.[38] The New York Post reported Shepherd told investigators that Belcher had doubts that he was the biological father of Zoey.[39]

The Chiefs had a 1–10 record at the time of the shootings, the worst in the NFL.[18] No Chiefs team had ever won just one game in a season, and fans had formed the "Save Our Chiefs" organization. They wore black to games to protest and hired an airplane to fly over Arrowhead Stadium on game days towing a banner that read, "Restore Hope: Fire Pioli."[40] The Chiefs had a game scheduled at Arrowhead against the also-struggling Carolina Panthers the day after the murder-suicide. The game went on as scheduled following discussions between the NFL, Crennel and the Chiefs' team captains.[41] No aircraft carrying the Pioli banners flew overhead and no formal mention was made of the shooting at the game, although there was a moment of silence for "victims of domestic violence and their families".[42] The Chiefs defeated the Panthers 27-21.[18]

Memorial service/burial[edit]

A service for Belcher was held on December 5 at Landmark International Deliverance and Worship Center just southwest of Arrowhead Stadium. The Chiefs' practice was scheduled around the event. Pioli and one of Belcher's uncles spoke at the closed service.[43] A funeral for Perkins took place the following day at the Ridgeview Family Fellowship in Blue Ridge, Texas. Another service was held December 8 in Austin, Texas where her father lives; Perkins was buried in Pflugerville, Texas.[44] Clark Hunt attended the service.[45] Perkins was born in McKinney, Texas, attended elementary and middle school in the Dallas suburb of Garland and graduated from Anderson High School in Austin in 2009.[45]

Police said the handgun Belcher shot his girlfriend with was different from the one he used to kill himself. Both were legally registered, but he did not have a permit to carry a concealed weapon. Belcher had other guns at his house.[46] The day after the shooting, NBC broadcaster Bob Costas said during a segment of Sunday Night Football that "in the coming days, Jovan Belcher's actions and their possible connection to football will be analyzed. Who knows? But here, wrote Jason Whitlock, is what I believe. If Jovan Belcher didn't possess a gun, he and Kasandra Perkins would both be alive today."[47] The comments prompted criticism and support from both sides of the gun control issue.[47] Five other current or former NFL players have killed themselves since 2011: Dave Duerson, Ray Easterling, Junior Seau, Kurt Crain and O.J. Murdock. All the players died of self-inflicted gunshot wounds.[35]

The Chiefs lost the December 9 game against the Cleveland Browns 30-7 and lost the remaining games of the season with the team ending the season 2-14 -- the worst in the NFL. Pioli and Crennel were both fired by the Chiefs organization on January 4, 2013 and December 31, 2012 respectively.

Belcher was buried on December 12 in the North Baylon Cemetery in North Babylon, New York following an open casket funeral at the Upper Room Christian Church in Dix Hills, New York. The hearse passed his childhood home in West Babylon en route to the cemetery.[48]

Child custody[edit]

Under the surviving-child benefit of the NFL’s collective-bargaining agreement, Zoey is to receive $108,000 per year through 2016; $48,000 annually in 2017; and $52,000 annually until at least 2030 (or 2035 if she attends college). In addition she would receive $600,000 in life insurance, a $100,000 retirement account and $200,000 for each season Belcher played (4 seasons).[49]

Belcher's mother reported that he had questioned the paternity of Zoey before the shooting. Kansas City police said they would not investigate the claim and that it would have to be a civil matter.[49]

By January 2013, Zoey was with her maternal grandparents in Texas. Zoey had gone to Texas for her mother's funeral and the maternal relatives did not permit her to be returned to Belcher's mother. Rebecca Anne Gonzalez and Darryl Perkins, Zoey's maternal grandparents, filed a motion for temporary guardianship and that her residence be established in Tarrant County, Texas. Zoey's paternal grandmother filed in Jackson County, Missouri a petition to be Zoey's guardian and the conservator of her estate.[50] On January 17, 2013 the judges in Missouri and Texas agreed that the case will be handled in Missouri.[51]

In June 2013, a judge awarded Sophie Perkins, a cousin of Kasandra Perkins, sole custody of Zoey. Sophie plans to raise the child in Pflugerville, Texas. Jovan's mother argued that there should be joint custody of the child. Both sides agree that a third party would oversee the child's inheritance.[52]

Wrongful death suit[edit]

In December 2013 his body was exhumed from the North Babylon cemetery at the request of his family to conduct tests on whether he was suffering from chronic traumatic encephalopathy.[53] On December 31, 2013, Belcher's mother filed a wrongful death suit in Missouri state court against her son's former team, the Kansas City Chiefs. [54]

The suit claims "In the months leading up to Decedent's death, Defendant was aware of Decedent's symptoms and signs of cognitive and neuropsychiatric impairment. Defendant micromanaged virtually every aspect of Decedent's life when it came to his physical abilities to perform in the workplace, including analyzing his diet, speed, strength and body-mass index. Yet when it came to monitoring Decedent's mental health and neurological capacities, Defendant disregarded evidence of impairments and fostered an environment where Decedent was required to play through his injuries and become exposed to further neurological harm."[55]

References[edit]

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  50. ^ http://www.kansascity.com/2013/01/04/3995261/zoey-belcher-now-living-in-texas.html#storylink=cpy
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  52. ^ http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/family-nfl-player-girlfriend-custody-child-article-1.1378488#ixzz2Wo9fqu3w
  53. ^ http://www.theroot.com/articles/culture/2013/12/nfl_player_jovan_belcher_s_body_exhumed_for_brain_exam.html
  54. ^ http://media.kansascity.com/smedia/2013/12/31/15/38/14zjc0.So.81.pdf
  55. ^ http://deadspin.com/jovan-belchers-mother-files-wrongful-death-lawsuit-aga-1493654475

External links[edit]