Saturday afternoon was a dark day for the Kansas City Chiefs organization as linebacker Jovan Belcher took the life of his girlfriend before taking his own in what can only be described at this point as a tragedy. Although we are some 1,700 miles away from where it all took place, the news hits very close to home. Belcher attended the University of Maine from 2005-2008 and had become one of the best success stories the UMaine football team ever had.
In 2005, Belcher started all 10 games as a freshman for the Black Bears and recorded 58 tackles, good for fourth on the team. He followed that breakout season with another respectable campaign in 2006, where he recorded 52 tackles and half a sack, proving to be a true asset on special teams coverage.
Belcher took his game to a new level in 2007 as he garnered an All-American second-team selection, something only 32 players had done in the history of the program. The move to defensive end helped Belcher achieve this peak play, as he totaled career-highs — 85 tackles and 10.0 sacks — while once again starting every game for the Black Bears. Belcher produced similar numbers in his senior season, with 7.5 sacks and a first-team All-American selection, becoming the fourth player in school history to gain multiple selections.
Belcher was much more than a powerful and talented football player though, as he became a standout in the classroom. He graduated from the University of Maine in 2008 with a degree in child development and family relations. Upon his graduation, Belcher received a numerous scholar athlete accolades to go along with his work on the field.
With his collegiate career over, Belcher caught the attention of many NFL teams during the 2009 NFL Draft. He was projected as a sixth round pick and labeled as one of the best small-school prospects in the draft class. Belcher would go undrafted, but later signed as a free agent with the Kansas City Chiefs in the weeks after the draft.
Belcher would spend all four seasons of his career with the Chiefs and had similar success in the NFL as he did at UMaine. His durability continued into his NFL days, as he played in every game for the Chiefs from the start of the 2009 season and started in all but 13 games. His best season in the NFL came in 2011, when he recorded 84 combined tackles, one sack and a forced fumble in his 16 starts.
The work Belcher did on the field was noteworthy, but his work in the community became just as important. Belcher was a fixture in the Kansas City community during his time with the Chiefs, making various appearances with teammates at local schools and the nearby military base in accordance with NFL community programs. In addition to working with the team’s community, Belcher made a point to return to his hometown of West Babylon, N.Y., giving speeches and acting as a role model to the local youth.
Many people will hear Belcher’s name and see his face on the television in the coming week or two, but nothing that you have heard in this article will be mentioned. You will hear of a man that lost himself somewhere along the way and had become some type of villain. Nobody will ever know what was going through Belcher’s head, and everything that is said about his final days will be chalked up to pure speculation because only he knew what he was doing.
So instead of trying to piece together something that is outside our realm of thinking, why don’t we remember Belcher as mentioned above. It may be ignorance, but one thing that cannot be ignored is the effect that Belcher had, both as one of the most successful UMaine football players in team history and as a member of the UMaine community. He gave every UMaine student somebody to cheer for on Sundays and made us proud to be Black Bear sports fans each time he hit that field.
So let us not remember Jovan Belcher as the villain, but instead remember him as a member of the Black Bear family.