I'm not a writer. Since seventh grade I've done one thing besides school: Football. Football has taken me to places I never thought I'd see and shown me joys and pain I never thought I'd feel.
I was jolted out of bed this morning with terrible news. An unnamed player from the Kansas City Chiefs had allegedly murdered his girlfriend and then killed himself at the Arrowhead facility.
After the initial shock, I thought to myself: Who could it be? I don't know anyone that crazy. I know some guys that I wouldn't invite over to my house but nothing like this. I have played seven years in this league and I've been a member of six different teams. It's not how I envisioned my career, but in the NFL you learn quickly that things don't always make sense or work out the way you think they should. One of those six teams was the Kansas City Chiefs. I was traded to K.C. from Miami in the summer of 2009.
After a few calls and texts, I learned that the player was Jovan Belcher. I was chilled to the core.
I woke up my pregnant wife who could hear that something was wrong. I told her what I had learned and she let out a blood-curdling shriek. She was friends with Kasandra Michelle Perkins, Jovan's girlfriend and mother of their infant daughter. I only knew Kassie a little, but she and my wife, Bobbie, hit it off in the stands, as so many NFL wives and significant others do. And when I was released, they kept in touch, even exchanging pregnant belly pictures. How could this be?
I remember Belch as a strong hard working undrafted free agent out of Maine. Maine, of all places.
I always had a strong affinity for Belcher. After all he was a talented athlete who came from a small school that wasn't known for its football prowess. Despite the odds he had made it to the biggest of all stages. I knew him as a smart guy, a guy who would listen to metal not rap before a game. I knew him as a rookie who would go hard even in a walk-through. A guy who you could have a conversation with about whatever. It's bewildering to think that he would be capable of committing such heinous acts.
Some may say, "Of course you didn't know him you were only there for a year." I beg to differ. Football is a binder. It brings together people of all sorts. Some who would never speak in the regular world. We sweat together, eat together, suffer together, travel together, win together and lose together. When you spend more time with 52 guys, 52 brothers than you do your own family. You feel like you get to know a person.
I guess you can say you never truly know someone. Or you never know what people are truly capable of. All I know is that an innocent child has been made an orphan. And two families are forever burdened with the tragic loss of their loved ones.
-- Ikechuku Ndukwe is an offensive lineman who has played for the Redskins, Ravens, Dolphins, Chiefs and Chargers. He was a history and communication studies major at Northwestern. Follow him on Twitter @INdukwe.
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