ORONO, Maine — The news that former UMaine football player and Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher killed his girlfriend and then himself on Saturday was met with uniform reactions from his former coaches, teammates and a UMaine professor: Shock.
Belcher shot and killed his girlfriend, who was the mother of his 3-month-old daughter, and then drove to the Chief’s practice facility, where he committed suicide, shooting himself in the head in front of General Manager Scott Pioli, Coach Romeo Crennel and other team personnel.
During his time at UMaine, Belcher was involved in Male Athletes Against Violence, a for-credit peer education class that Belcher enrolled in during the fall semester of 2007. The course typically draws more than 10 students per semester, usually varsity athletes, according to university spokeswoman Margaret Nagel.
Male Athletes Against Violence focuses on “issues of masculinity and violence,” often sponsoring information tables around campus to raise awareness about violence and encourage college men to sign pledge cards — committing to educate themselves about violence, serve as good role models, support women’s groups and help victims of violence.
“MAAV is an effort to involve men so that we can begin to understand that violence is very much a ‘man’s issue,’” according to a description of the group posted on UMaine’s website.
Students who participate in MAAV also work in area schools, urging the prevention of bullying and violence among peers.
UMaine professor Sandy Caron, who founded the course in 2004 and continues to teach it, joined Belcher’s former coaches and teammates in expressing shock over Belcher’s actions on Saturday.
“This is a tragedy beyond comprehension and completely at odds with what the Male Athletes Against Violence peer education program stands for,” Caron said in a statement released by the university on Sunday. “Our deepest sympathies are with Jovan and Kasandra’s loved ones.”
Caron did not return a message requesting a phone interview over the weekend.
Belcher’s former coach at UMaine, Jack Cosgrove, said Saturday evening that Belcher’s impact on the football program was “boundless,” and that UMaine’s “football family” is struggling to come to grips with what happened.
“I’m hard-pressed to find or recall a young man who had more of an impact in a positive way on his teammates and his football family in my time here,” UMaine football coach Jack Cosgrove said Saturday. “He’s truly one of the great stories in the program’s history.
“I don’t have any explanation or reason [for what happened]. I don’t know, and I’m not going to try to speculate what happened here. But I think when you teach, you teach from a positive perspective, and we’re going to hold on to the great memories that we have of Jovan,” Cosgrove said Saturday.