Phil Emery, other GMs should keep digging for the truth about Notre Dame defensive end's behavior, character.
After one Notre Dame football practice in August, coach Brian Kelly described defensive end Prince Shembo to reporters.
"He plays the game with that chip where (he is) going to do whatever's necessary to be disruptive,'' Kelly said. "You almost have to take his helmet away from him.''
I recall cringing as I read Kelly's comments in print. Yeah, disruptive.
Taking Shembo's helmet away for a couple of games was something I suggested Kelly should have done in September 2010, when the player was accused of sexual battery by St. Mary's College student Lizzy Seeberg. And Kelly's description certainly fit Shembo's profile on and off the field based on the reporting by many media members who knew of his alleged role in this tragic saga from the start.
Attention, Bears general manager Phil Emery and 31 other NFL peers considering drafting Shembo in the late rounds: Keep digging. Go beyond the surface-level interview Shembo conducted at the NFL scouting combine. See if Shembo indeed established a pattern of disciplinary problems back home in Charlotte, N.C., that Notre Dame coaches ignored. Find the high school teacher whom Shembo allegedly threw a desk at after having his cellphone taken away, as Politics Daily reported. Chase the rumors about Shembo's past, which reporters never had context to pursue or report as the media concealed the identity of someone not charged with a crime as a matter of fairness.
Now that Shembo chose to come forward Saturday at the NFL combine in Indianapolis, evaluating his character issues also becomes fair.
When Shembo publicly identified himself as the accused for the first time, he attempted to clear his name but only added a few more smudges. Shembo did the most damage taking a troubling blame-the-victim tone, impugning a 19-year-old from Northbrook who committed suicide nine days after filing a complaint that alleged inappropriate touching during an incident in Shembo's dorm room.
"I'm innocent, I didn't do anything,'' Shembo told ESPN.com. "I'm the one who ended it and pretty much told the girl that we should stop, that we shouldn't be doing this. … I was a freshman. I don't think games even started yet, and she was older than me.''
The older woman Shembo referred to was born 147 days before he was.
If Shembo believed he was blameless, why wait 3 1/2 years to try clearing his name, which he said "was going to flames"? Why didn't Shembo return repeated calls from Notre Dame Security Police after Seeberg reported the incident? It wasn't as if Shembo was unaware, regardless of Saturday's claims. Two days after the alleged attack, a close friend of Shembo sent a text message to Seeberg warning: "Messing with Notre Dame football is a bad idea.'' Yet two weeks passed until Shembo finally gave his statement to campus police. If Shembo really professed innocence about the whole ordeal, why was his punk friend aggressively texting threats?
"I was like, 'What?' I was confused,'' Shembo recalled Saturday of his NDSP interview. "They were asking questions and I didn't know what they were talking about because I didn't do anything.''
He didn't proclaim his innocence then because he says Kelly urged him to stay silent.
"I wanted to, but they had to keep everything confidential,'' Shembo said. "Now that I'm out (of school), I can talk about it.''
Great, so please explain how a kid from North Carolina retained a prominent Chicago personal-injury attorney, a Notre Dame graduate who worked in concert with the university's public relations office, according to a 2012 National Catholic Reporter story. Please discuss any personal knowledge of the intimidation tactics via text used to scare Seeberg. And the next time Shembo addresses his indirect but undeniable link to Seeberg, perhaps he can show some respect or sympathy for the memory of a young woman who died too soon after keeping his company.
This might feel like it's over to Shembo. To the Seeberg family, which publicly declined comment, the emptiness lingers. Both the local prosecutor and a university disciplinary panel eventually cleared Shembo, but that didn't make it easier for the Seebergs to see No. 55 in a gold helmet every autumn Saturday. Zachary Fardon, now the highly regarded U.S. Attorney in Chicago, felt so strongly about the Seebergs' contention that Notre Dame mishandled the case that he represented the family for free.
In the NFL, Shembo will encounter more acceptance than outrage if he can rush the passer. The only person who can refute his claims of innocence is dead. The media has moved on, if interest in Indy was any indication.
Shembo finally broke his 41-month silence to a handful of reporters. In the same building, openly gay prospect Michael Sam commanded the biggest media crowd. Both NFL prospects proclaimed they had nothing to hide, but only one was convincing.
In the Wake of the News