K.C. Chiefs moved on from tragedy

He works as a real estate agent in between classes, stays in shape and has gotten five of what he describes as "almost-calls" from teams asking if he's ready to go if needed, but the follow-up call has never come. And that's OK now. Before Belcher died, he was angry about football, bitter at how the league casts away older players for younger and cheaper talent. Now he has a deeper appreciation for life, a clarity that usually comes many years later. He's 27 and wants to be everything he can, a great father, a real success story. He can do that without football.

For the past 10 years of his life, Siler, who played for Urban Meyer at Florida, has been told when to eat, when to wake up, when to train. Now he's in control.

"I'm still fighting to get in every chance I can," he said. "I get excited to hear every phone call, but at the same time, I'm not angry with the game. Instead, I look at it like I got six years in the game, and I appreciate every minute.

"It wakes you up, and it kind of makes you see football as a game instead of the only thing in life."

After Dec. 1, a house in Independence, Mo., lost its laughter and energy. When Perkins wanted companionship, or was on the outs with Belcher, she'd retreat to the VanCompernolle home and hang out with her pals Shelby and Kelsie, who are sisters. The VanCompernolles used to joke that they were Perkins' "normal friends."

"It was almost kind of like a fairy-tale life," said Konnie VanCompernolle, Shelby and Kelsie's mother. "What 22-year-old doesn't like money and everything that comes with it? I mean, it was a pretty glamorous life."

And then it wasn't. First, the good memories: Perkins used to stay with the VanCompernolles when Belcher went off to training camp every summer because she didn't like to be alone. Konnie would cook meals for Perkins, who would take a picture of the food and send it to Belcher, who was in training and watching his weight.

Belcher used to come over often, too. He was polite and respectful and would occasionally bring his mother, Cheryl Shepherd. They seemed like normal people, Konnie said.

Belcher and Perkins could be affectionate and loving, but they were also young and immature. They fought frequently, mostly about money. In the last weeks of her life, Perkins stayed with the VanCompernolles when she was at odds with Belcher.

"I never thought they'd get married," Konnie said.

She never thought he'd kill her, either.

Their fights were never supposed to escalate to this. At times, they seemed trivial, about Belcher's belief that Perkins wasn't doing her share, about Belcher badgering her to finish school.

Perkins, according to VanCompernolle, came to Kansas City from Texas with no car and few possessions outside of her clothes. Everything she had was Belcher's. In those final days, there were talks of her standing on her own two feet. But then she was back with Belcher, who enlisted his mother to come from West Babylon, N.Y., to Kansas City to help the couple take care of baby Zoey.

When Perkins was killed, the VanCompernolles wanted people to remember their friend. Kelsie and Shelby talked to the local media about the fun times they had with Perkins, who wanted to be a teacher.

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