NORMAN, Okla. -- Nebraska defensive line coach John Blake
testified Thursday that one of his defensive linemen at Nebraska
plowed into an Oklahoma spirit squad member and not a Cornhuskers offensive
lineman on trial for felony assault.
Blake, who was the head coach of the Sooners from 1996 to 1998, testified that
defensive end Wali Muhammad accidentally slammed into Adam Merritt,
19, during drills before the Cornhuskers' game at Oklahoma on
Nov. 13, 2004.
Former Nebraska offensive lineman Darren DeLone is on trial on
one felony charge of aggravated assault and battery. He has pleaded
innocent. The charge carries a possible punishment of up to five
years in prison.
Blake was on the field coaching at the time of the collision and
said he witnessed Muhammad and DeLone participating in a full-speed
drill just before the game when DeLone shoved Muhammad toward a
group of spectators.
"He was shoving Wali, and as Wali went flying, that's when I
saw the spectators," Blake said.
Blake said DeLone outsized Muhammad by about 60 pounds and
commonly was able to push him around.
"I knew Darren was going to throw Wali because he always
manhandled Wali," Blake said.
Blake left the witness stand to demonstrate with DeLone how the
drill worked and told jurors that it was DeLone's responsibility to
shove Muhammad out of the way if he got outside of him. Blake said
doing this would open a gap for a running back.
As Muhammad headed toward the sideline, Blake said he saw most
of the group move out of his way, but Merritt did not.
"I guess the guys in front had moved out of the way in a
hurry," he said.
Merritt and a dentist who examined him have testified that the
Oklahoma freshman lost one of his front teeth and fractured another
in the collision.
Prosecution witnesses, including several Ruf/Neks, a band member
and a cheerleader, have testified that DeLone slammed into Merritt.
Defense attorney Garvin Isaacs has claimed that Muhammad
accidentally collided with Merritt and DeLone did not.
On cross-examination, Cleveland County District Attorney Tim
Kuykendall challenged Blake about comments he made during an
interview with Isaacs in which Blake said the Ruf/Nek "got bumped
by DeLone and, uh, Wali."
Blake said he hesitated because he couldn't at first remember
Muhammad's name, but he intended to say that both players were
involved in the drill which led to the contact with Merritt.
Blake, who also played for Oklahoma from 1979-82, graduated from
the school in 1986 and returned as an assistant coach from 1989-92,
said the stadium had been remodeled since he left OU and he thought
spectators were closer to the practice area than he had remembered.
Kuykendall asked if he thought about moving the team farther from
"I think it's a problem them being that close to us, not us
being that close to them," Blake responded.
Blake, testifying for the defense, also out also spoke about
"Darren was a guy who never got in a brawl on the football
field, never got into a fight. ... I don't remember Darren being in
any altercations at all," Blake said.
After Blake was called as an early defense witness because he
wouldn't be able to testify later, Kuykendall continued with his
On cross-examination, Isaacs challenged Ruf/Nek Zachary Decker's
testimony about DeLone's positioning during the drill -- claiming it
was inconsistent with what some others had testified.
Kuykendall said he expected that challenge and expected to do
the same when Isaacs started calling his witnesses.
"The jurors in this trial are going to hear a lot of
inconsistencies, things that don't add up, two witnesses testifying
to two different things," Kuykendall said. "I think a lot of that
is just human nature. People look at the same occurrence and come
away with different impressions, having seen different things.
That's a lot of what we have here."
Isaacs also questioned University of Oklahoma Detective John
Bishop about whether police investigating the incident jumped to an
early conclusion that DeLone had committed a crime and ignored
evidence to the contrary.
Isaacs played an audiotape of Officer Mike Robinson calling
Merritt an "assault victim" and saying a football player had
"sucker-punched" the Ruf/Nek less than two hours after the
incident had occurred.
Bishop testified that investigators had considered all possible
evidence and passed it along for Kuykendall to decide whether to