Gravette High School senior Darrick Strzelecki said he felt something odd in his helmet during practice Tuesday, but thought it was only a tangled lock of hair or sweat beading up as the team worked on extra points.
“I kept hitting, and it just kept bothering me,” Strzelecki told the Benton County Daily Record.
During a break about 15 minutes into practice, Strzelecki took off his helmet and initially believed his teammates were teasing him.
“It looked like a rubber snake, and I thought somebody had pulled a practical joke on me,” he said. “When I grabbed it by the tail, that’s when it jerked, and I dropped the helmet.”
The snake, 10-12 inches long, was killed shortly afterward.
“It’s funny now, but it is something I don’t take lightly,” head coach Bill Harrelson said. “All snakes are deadly in my book.”
Assistant coach Seth McKinzie said the snake did not appear to be venomous.
Strzelecki said it took him about five minutes to build up the courage to put the helmet back on his head, but not before he looked in every corner of it.
“When you have it crawling on your head, it freaks you out,” he said. “It creeped me out. Even through the rest of practice, it felt like the snake was still crawling on me.”
Teammates later called him “Snake Boy,” hissed at him and, at times, wiggled their fingers inside the ear hole of Strzelecki’s helmet.
School maintenance workers made sure Wednesday there were no other critters in the locker room and the team’s equipment.