Former Kansas City Chiefs fullback Tony Richardson said he was “shocked” when he found out that linebacker Jovan Belcher shot his girlfriend to death and then drove to the team’s facility and killed himself.
He was one of several who reacted to Saturday’s tragedy in Kansas City.
“People think, how can a young man with the world in front of him, making good money and playing on a national stage, do something like that?” Richardson told USA Today. “But you just don’t understand the mental state of what some people are dealing with. It’s sad.”
Belcher, 25, was a starter at inside linebacker for the Chiefs this season and was in his fourth season in the NFL.
“In a small-market [city], people really love their Chiefs’ players,” said Richardson, who played with the Chiefs from 1995-2005. “They know everything about every player. It’s a big family and a very close-knit community. This was a young man people followed and cheered for. It’s devastating.”
Dwayne Wilmot, Belcher’s position coach at the University of Maine, said family was very important to Belcher, making the murder-suicide even more puzzling. Wilmot told USA Today that Belcher would light up when he told him his mother was coming to a game.
“Family was paramount for Jovan, you could see it at every game,” said Wilmot, now a coach at Yale. “His family showed up in force. He relished the opportunity to make them proud as a student and an athlete. He did what he did for their love and their adulation.
“I’m devastated right now. Trying to hold together.”
Wilmot said that aside from some maturity issues, Belcher had no other serious off-the-field issues.
“Kids ages 18-22, they all have things they’d like to do over,” the coach said. “When I was that age there were things I’d like to do over. To see him grow and evolve in that time, it is an absolute and utter shock to be talking about Jovan in the past tense.”
Former Chiefs quarterback Rich Gannon, an NFL analyst for CBS, told USA Today that it has been a difficult season for the 1-10 Chiefs, but Saturday’s tragedy compounds it.
“You feel terrible for the victim, for [Belcher], the families, the team, for [Chiefs coach] Romeo [Crennel], [general manager] Scott [Pioli] and [owner] Clark Hunt,” Gannon said. “What else can you say? It’s just a sad [day].”
Chiefs chairman and CEO Clark Hunt said in a statement: “The entire Chiefs family is deeply saddened by today’s events, and our collective hearts are heavy with sympathy, thoughts and prayers for the families and friends affected by this unthinkable tragedy. We sincerely appreciate the expressions of sympathy and support we have received from so many in the Kansas City and NFL communities, and ask for continued prayers for the loved ones of those impacted.
“We will continue to fully cooperate with the authorities and work to ensure that the appropriate counseling resources are available to all members of the organization.”
The Oakland Raiders, a longtime AFC West rival of the Chiefs, released a statement Saturday, saying, “The Oakland Raiders are empathizing with the Chiefs organization. Our hearts are wounded by such an unimaginable tragedy in our NFL family. We will continue to pray for everyone involved.”
The Chiefs host the Carolina Panthers at 1 p.m. Sunday. The Panthers were told by the league to travel as scheduled but has not decided if the game will still be played or not.