Jovan Belcher was remembered Wednesday for the accomplishments of a life that ended so suddenly and violently.
Several hundred mourners gathered for the Kansas City Chiefs linebacker’s funeral near his hometown on Long Island. The 25-year-old Belcher shot and killed his girlfriend on Dec. 1, then drove to the Chiefs practice facility and committed suicide in front of team officials.
At Upper Room Christian Church on Wednesday, relatives wore black — and red, the Chiefs’ color. Pastor Dawn Mixon shared that Belcher’s mother, Cheryl Shepherd, described him as a “humble, kind young man.” He had a soft spot for children and loved cartoons.
“We may not understand the reasons why we are here or understand what caused this tragedy,” Mixon said.
At a celebration of Belcher’s life, there were hints of the way it ended. A photo slide show played on a large screen above the stage, with images from Belcher’s childhood through his football careers at nearby West Babylon High School and the University of Maine.
Then appeared the words “In loving memory of” Belcher and Kasandra Perkins, the mother of his 3-month-old daughter. After a series of pictures of Perkins and baby Zoey came the message, “Keep this little girl in your prayers.”
“The legacy we pass on to her will be good,” said his uncle, Davin Miles.
Next to an open casket were collages of photos and mementos from Belcher’s playing career. An array of flowers spelled out W.B. for his high school.
Chiefs players and staff attended a memorial service for Belcher in Kansas City last week.
On a Saturday morning, the day before the team’s game against the Carolina Panthers, Belcher shot the 22-year-old Perkins multiple times at their home. Police said Belcher and Perkins previously had been arguing.
Belcher then drove to Arrowhead Stadium, where he thanked coach Romeo Crennel and general manager Scott Pioli for all they’d done for him. As police arrived, Belcher slipped behind a car and put the gun to his head.
His path to becoming an NFL starter had been an unlikely one. Belcher did not play in college football’s top division, and he wasn’t drafted. But he made the Chiefs, becoming a full-time starter in 2010.
Bishop Stephanie Green described Belcher as “a man who did some awesome things — while other young men his age were out hustling, slinging and doing other things, he chose an education.”
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.