Those who knew former Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher prayed to relieve the pain after learning of his death on Saturday, Dec. 1 in Kansas City, Mo.
Spencer Pullins, a senior sport management major, worked for the organization as an equipment intern during the team’s 2012 training camp prior to the start of the NFL’s regular season.
He, like many in the country, was shocked to hear the news of a death outside of the team’s facilities.
“I don’t think anyone ever expects anything like this to happen to anyone,” Pullins said.
On Saturday morning, Belcher reportedly killed his girlfriend, 22-year-old Kasandra Perkins, at their apartment before driving to Arrowhead Stadium and shooting himself. He had been speaking with team head coach Romeo Crennel and General Manager Scott Pioli in the stadium parking lot at the time of his death. Belcher thanked the men for everything they had done for him before pulling the trigger.
Preliminary reports insisted that people who knew Belcher could not imagine why he would do this. It was somewhat of a mystery.
Later, a story in the Kansas City Star on Monday, Dec. 3, revealed that Belcher struggled with football-related head injuries and was taking painkillers and drinking heavily on a regular basis. He and Perkins were in the midst of a rocky relationship. They had a three-month old daughter, Zoey, who was in the other room when Belcher shot Perkins nine times. Belcher’s mother was also in the room when the slaying occurred.
Pullins said he first heard about something happening regarding the team that morning.
“I was on my way to breakfast on Saturday with my roommates when one of the other interns texted me to tell me what was going on,” Pullins said. “I checked a couple of sport websites to try and find out more.”
Pullins gained the internship with the Chiefs along with five others this summer after applying for the position on the website for the Athletic Equipment Manager’s Association. He has worked in the Frericks Center equipment room since his freshman year under Frericks Center Equipment Manager Kyle Warren.
He attended the team’s training camp at Missouri Western State University in St. Joseph’s, Mo., and had a full day’s schedule working for the team. He said days began at 6:30 a.m. distributing laundry from the night before and getting it ready for the day’s practice. During practice, Pullins would ready locker rooms for after the session and said he would do assist with anything.
When the team returned to Kansas City for the remainder of camp, he said he worked with the team’s running backs and ran the yardage markers on the sidelines during practice.
During the team’s two home exhibitions, Pullins organized the team’s equipment prior to them coming in and help the team’s quarterbacks, kickers and punters by catching balls.
Not getting to know a lot of the team’s players well during his time, he said members of the team still took time to get to know him and others.
“We were working a lot of the time, which usually involved us being around them and a lot of the guys took the time to learn our names and where we were from and would often talk with us,” Pullins said.
Originally growing up in the Cleveland area as a Cleveland Browns fan, Pullins said the experience has made him a Chiefs fan as well now. He stays close after spending time with his fellow interns from camp, and has stayed in contact with a few of the team’s full-time employees as well.
Pullins said the incident was a shock to him, and he stayed in contact with some of the full-time equipment people and his fellow interns throughout the day, offering his condolences.
Belcher joined the Chiefs as an undrafted free agent in 2009 out of the University of Maine, where he was named to the Associated Press’s First Team All-America in 2008. After three years with the organization, Belcher re-signed with the team prior to the 2012 season in a one-year contract.
“I didn’t get to know him closely,” Pullins said. “He treated us very well and was very friendly with us. He was a hard worker and had become one of my favorite players to watch.”
NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport reported on Monday that the league’s collective bargaining agreement will financially support three-month-old Zoey either through the end of her high school career or college, depending if she decides to attend or not later in life.
The team and the NFL decided to continue on with the team’s scheduled game at Arrowhead Stadium as planned the next day following the incident on Sunday, Dec. 2. In an emotional game, the Chiefs defeated the Carolina Panthers 27-21 for its second win of the season and first in nine games.
Chiefs quarterback Brady Quinn after the game during his press conference was asked about his emotions in playing a game the day after the incident that involved his teammate, and said it was eerie, but people need to realize the relationships they have with others if they were to take something away from the game.
“I know when it happened, I was sitting and, in my head, thinking what I could have done differently,” Quinn said to reporters. “When you ask someone how they are doing, do you really mean it? When you answer someone back how you are doing, are you really telling the truth? We live in a society of social networks, with Twitter pages and Facebook, and that’s fine, but we have contact with our work associates, our family, our friends, and it seems like half the time we are more preoccupied with out phone and other things going on instead of the actual relationships that we have right in front of us.”
Pullins said he was able to watch the post game interviews through the team’s website and was amazed at what he heard.
“Brady Quinn’s words rang especially true about how attached we are to the outside world and often forget about what is in front of us,” Pullins said. “It’s a lesson all of us can learn. Recently, I lost a high school classmate that took his own life. It just brings everything into perspective, how important and valuable our time here is.”
Pullins said it’s been difficult to grasp the news, especially when it involves people that you know.
He said from getting to know those within the Chiefs organization, he thinks the team will be able to cope with what has happened and is rooting for them.
“I wouldn’t trade my experience in KC for anything,” he said. “Although I missed the first three days of class, it was worth it. It was an honor to be able to work for such a great organization with great people and I am excited to see what is in store for them in the future.”