Preliminary hearing held in Nebraska player's assault case

Friday, February 25th 2005, 2:22 pm

By: News On 6

NORMAN, Okla. (AP) _ A University of Oklahoma spirit group member who was injured when a Nebraska football player slammed into him before a game said at a preliminary hearing Friday that he temporarily lost consciousness after he was hit and woke up to discover he was missing teeth.

``I looked up only to see a hand coming toward my face and I woke up against a brick wall with a very sore head and back and no teeth in my mouth,'' Adam Merritt, 19, said at a hearing to determine whether Darren DeLone, 23, should be tried on a charge of aggravated assault and battery.

One of Merritt's front teeth was knocked out, and another front tooth was broken in the Nov. 23 incident.

Merritt is a member of the Oklahoma Ruf/Neks spirit group that leads cheers and accompanies the Sooner Schooner covered wagon on Owen Field. They shoot ceremonial shotguns guns without live ammunition and sometimes heckle opposing teams.

Witnesses claimed DeLone, who was going through pregame drills on the field, charged Merritt, rammed his helmet into Merritt's face and then shoved the freshman into a brick wall.

DeLone, an offensive lineman listed at 6-foot-5 and 315 pounds, finished his senior season with the Cornhuskers last year.

Merritt said that immediately before he was hit, he was talking to two other members of the Ruf/Neks spirit group and that he thought they were joking about a player coming at him.

Defense Attorney Gavin Isaacs asked Merritt if his injuries could have been the result of an accident.

``As I woke up I realized that what had happened was not an accident,'' Merritt said. ``There is no way that I can see this being an accident.''

He said group members were in their designated area off the field.

Zachary Decker, 19, another member of the spirit group, testified that a Nebraska player wearing number 67 made a threatening gesture before the incident by drawing his thumb across his throat. DeLone wore number 67.

He said the same player charged them.

``He was running fast and right at us, pretty much a sprint,'' Decker said.

The player hit Merritt with an open fist, pushed him against a brick wall, walked away cussing and then resumed his drills, Decker testified.

The felony charge against DeLone carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison.

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