Just before Thanksgiving, Jovan Belcher spoke about how grateful he was for his family, friends and Kansas City Chiefs coaches — those who helped an undrafted free agent linebacker from Maine become an NFL starter.
“First and foremost, God. Family and friends just keeping me focused, coaches and just everyone,” Belcher said in an interview with KCChiefs.com, the team’s news website, on Nov. 21.
At 25, Belcher appeared to have achieved all his dreams, professionally and personally. Eleven days later, Kansas City police allege Belcher shot and killed his girlfriend, Kasandra Michelle Perkins, 22, before going to the Chiefs practice facility at Arrowhead Stadium and fatally turning the gun on himself as team personnel pleaded with him to stop.
According to the Kansas City Star, Police Capt. David Lindaman said Belcher and Perkins, parents of a 3-month-old daughter, got into an argument around 7 a.m. Saturday at their home in the 5400 block of Crysler Ave. in Kansas City.
According to police, at about 7:50 a.m., Belcher shot Perkins multiple times. The victim was taken to a hospital, where she was pronounced dead.
Lindaman said Belcher’s mother, who was visiting the couple and their new baby, witnessed the shooting and is being interviewed by police.
A neighbor told FOXSports.com he was stunned by the tragedy. “There have never been any issues in the past,” said Freddie Sinclair, who lives next door to the site of the murder on the 5400 block of Crysler Ave.
Belcher left the scene and went to the Chiefs’ headquarters, police said, encountering general manager Scott Pioli, head coach Romeo Crennel and other team personnel at the Arrowhead Stadium facility. Police were summoned to the stadium at about 8:10 a.m.
It was there, police say, that Chiefs personnel worked to keep Belcher from committing additional acts of violence, to no avail. As police arrived, they heard a gunshot.
“The coaches said when (the police) pulled up (that) they were never in danger,” Darin Snapp, a public information officer at the Kansas City Police Department, told reporters outside Arrowhead. “He never threatened them. They talked for a little bit.”
The Chiefs released a statement: “We can confirm that there was an incident at Arrowhead earlier this morning. We are cooperating with authorities in their investigation.”
Belcher was in his fourth year with the Chiefs, joining the team as an undrafted free agent out of Maine in 2009. A special teams staple, he earned the starting inside linebacker job at the start of the 2011 NFL season. He recorded 87 tackles that season.
In the offseason, Belcher agreed to accept a tender offer and re-signed on March 22, 2012. He played in 11 games this season, starting 10, with 38 tackles and one pass defensed. He had no career interceptions.
He was regarded as a hard-working player, an overachiever, who rose from being a standout multi-position football player and wrestler at West Babylon High School in New York, in the heart of Long Island, to earn a $1.927 million base salary as an NFL starter in 2012.
In his Nov. 21 interview with the Chiefs website, Belcher described his drive to succeed beyond his small college background.
“You just have to be hungry,” Belcher said. “It had to be like taking my plate on Thanksgiving. You have to want it more than the next person. You have to just refuse to be denied.”
Asked to describe his first NFL play, Belcher echoed the thoughts of many who take football’s ultimate stage” “Fast. Very fast.”
At West Babylon High, Belcher played linebacker, offensive tackle, nose tackle and fullback in addition to being a standout wrestler, a three-time All America selection in that sport. As a senior, Belcher led his football team to its first undefeated regular season.
For the Maine Black Bears, he played defensive end his junior and senior years, making the switch from outside linebacker, where he played as a sophomore and freshman.
Belcher believed his skills at various positions as a prep star helped him be a more well-rounded athlete.
“Just being versatile,” Belcher told KCChiefs.com about his sports background. “I think it helped build my whole mental mentality, to never give up and just keep fighting and wrestling was a big part of and it still is.”
The University of Maine issued a statement Saturday detailing Belcher’s career at that school:
"Jovan Belcher of West Babylon, N.Y., attended the University of Maine from 2005-2008 and was a linebacker through the 2008 football season, when he was one of two senior co-captains.
He graduated from UMaine in December 2008 with a bachelor’s degree in child development and family relations.
In his senior year, Belcher was named the 2008 CAA Preseason Defensive Player of the Year and named to the Preseason All-CAA Team. In his UMaine career, Belcher played 44 games. His stats include 293 tackles, 44.0 tackles for loss and 18.0 sacks.
UMaine Head Football Coach Jack Cosgrove says Jovan was a “tremendous student-athlete.
‘His move to the NFL was in keeping with his dreams,’ says Cosgrove. ‘This is an indescribably horrible tragedy. At this difficult time, our thoughts and prayers are with Jovan, Kasandra and their families.’"
—FOXSports.com national writer A.J. Perez contributed to this report.