The times when Damarlo Belcher is most under a microscope these days are not when he’s running the 40-yard dash or executing routes and catching passes. It’s when he stops running and has to look scouts in the eye and tell them how the man who led the Big Ten in receptions in 2010 was kicked off his college team with a month left in his senior season.
That’s what he had to do at Indiana’s Pro Day Monday morning at Mellencamp Pavilion. The eight NFL scouts who were there circled around Belcher for several minutes asking the obvious questions.
“Basically, they wanted to know why I got kicked off the team,” Belcher said. “I told them why. You know, that’s all they wanted to know really, because my family and everything else talks for itself. They just wanted to know why I got kicked off the team. I had to come clean with that.”
And after flatly denying the reason several times since his dismissal for a “violation of team rules,” Belcher finally confirmed what that violation was.
“It was a failed DT,” Belcher said. “Failed a drug test. I tried to keep it low key. They had to know sooner or later. I just tried to keep it a secret all the way until then.”
So now the world knows, and most importantly, the people who decide whether he has a professional football know. And it’s now up to Belcher to prove to them that despite that information — and despite a more strict conduct policy in the NFL that has general managers and personnel directors being much more careful now about the character of the players they draft — that he’s still worth a chance.
He first had to explain how and why it happened.
“I just basically told them that I was hanging around the wrong group of guys,” Belcher said. “Easily got influenced to do the wrong things when things aren’t going right. I basically told them man, I just gotta watch who I hang around with and watch my peers, because it’s easy to do bad things when those guys aren’t doing the same things as you. I just told them my word is my bond and I won’t let the same things happen again at the next level.”
Belcher is hopeful that those who have been around him will vouch for his personality and tell those scouts that he is more than just that failed drug test. It appears that the man who dismissed him, coach Kevin Wilson, will be one of those in his corner. Wilson has allowed Belcher to use IU’s weight room and practice facilities to train through December —before he left school to train in his hometown of Fort Wayne — and of course to participate in Monday’s Pro Days. The two appeared to be on good terms Monday, shaking hands and talking while watching the other eight seniors who were participating in the event.
“I really appreciate that,” Belcher said. “I still talk to Wilson to this day. He still wants me to finish school. We’re still on a good note. I thank Wilson for letting me come out here and do the pro day. … Me and Coach Wilson are still on a good note.”
Belcher will have questions to answer beyond character issues alone. The 6-foot-5, 215-pounder wasn’t having a great senior season before he was dismissed. That was in part due to injuries and in part because the Hoosiers were shuffling quarterbacks trying to find a replacement for Ben Chappel, but Belcher has already heard scouts have knocks on him.
“A lot of scouts questioned my speed and my explosiveness,” Belcher said. “That’s one of the things I wanted to showcase out here today when I was running my routes was my explosiveness. Hopefully I did that.”
Belcher said he will continue to train in Fort Wayne with the training group Athletes With Purpose. He will also attend another combine in Detroit in approximately a month.
Belcher was one of nine players who participated in Pro Day on Monday. Also participating were linebacker Jeff Thomas, offensive tackle Andrew McDonald, defensive ends Darius Johnson and Fred Jones, safeties Chris Adkins, Donnell Jones and Jarrell Drane (who was limited) and wide receiver Dre Muhammad.