NORMAN, Okla. -- A University of Oklahoma spirit squad
member testified Wednesday that a Nebraska player cursed him and
made a throat-slitting gesture at him prior to charging into
another member of the group.
Matt Tinsley, who was standing next to fellow Ruf/Nek Adam
Merritt when Merritt was slammed into a wall before the Nov. 13
football game between Oklahoma and Nebraska, said he had been among
several other Ruf/Neks trying to disrupt the Cornhuskers by yelling
"hut-hut-hut" during practice snap counts when lineman Darren
DeLone confronted him and cursed at him.
Tinsley testified that he walked away and was pointing at DeLone
later when the Nebraska player made a threatening gesture at him.
"DeLone saw me and then slid his thumb across his neck at me,"
DeLone, 23, is on trial on one felony charge of aggravated
assault and battery. He has pleaded innocent to the charge, which
carries a punishment of up to five years in prison upon conviction.
On cross-examination by defense attorney Garvin Isaacs, Tinsley
acknowledged the Ruf/Neks were intentionally trying to interfere
with the Nebraska players. He added there was trash talk going on
and some members of the spirit squad had fired their ceremonial
"Is there anywhere else in America where they take shotguns to
a football game?" Isaacs asked. Tinsley replied, "No, sir."
Tinsley said he and Merritt were on the east sidelines when
DeLone pointed at him and "not more than a minute later" charged
into the group of Ruf/Neks, injuring Merritt. Tinsley testified
that Nebraska's Wali Muhammad ran into him, but he wasn't thrown to
"I stumbled back a little bit," Tinsley said.
He testified that he did not actually see DeLone hit Merritt but
believed that the Nebraska player was the only one that could have
hit Merritt. Isaacs has argued that Muhammad accidentally hit
Merritt, and DeLone did not.
In all, four Ruf/Neks and one cheerleader testified they had
seen a player wearing No. 67 -- DeLone's number -- make contact with
Merritt, although their stories had some inconsistencies. Ruf/Nek
freshman Zachary Decker testified that DeLone hit Merritt's chin
and then shoved him with both hands. Fellow Ruf/Nek Ryan Maxwell
said DeLone pushed Merritt with his "arms extended. Cheerleader
Zachary Marshall said DeLone made contact "with his shoulder pads
and his arms."
The witnesses also differed on whether they thought Merritt's
head hit a metal gate or the brick wall to which it was attached.
Only Tinsley and Decker said they saw the throat-slashing gesture.
DeLone watched the exchange between attorneys and the witnesses.
Isaacs frequently jotted notes. At one point during the afternoon,
DeLone left the courtroom while feeling ill but returned soon
Lance Maxwell, another Ruf/Nek and the brother of Ryan Maxwell,
said the purpose of the Ruf/Neks -- the group that accompanies the
Sooner Schooner covered wagon onto the field -- was not to
intimidate or disrupt opponents.
Cleveland County District Attorney Tim Kuykendall, during a
lunch recess, said the trash talk was irrelevant.
"I think anyone who has been to any kind of sporting event
knows there is trash talking going on," Kuykendall said. "That
doesn't justify anybody -- whether they are a team member, whether
they are a spirit group or just a fan in the stands -- that doesn't
justify anyone taking violent action and assaulting another