Holy snakes! Star running back survives reptile in helmet

Cameron Smith
Prep Rally

Darrick Strzelecki, a star running back for Gravette (Ark.) High, is used to close encounters with linebackers on the football field. He's not so accustomed to run-ins with reptiles on the field ... or at least he wasn't until a practice on Tuesday. That's when Strzelecki took off his helmet during a water break and found what he thought was a toy snake. As it turns out, it wasn't a toy at all, though he only discovered that when the reptile slithered away.

Gravette running back Darrick Strzelecki
Gravette running back Darrick Strzelecki

"It looked like a rubber snake, and I thought someone had played a practical joke on me," Strzelecki told the Associated Press. "When I grabbed it by the tail, that's when it jerked, and I dropped the helmet."

Luckily, a Gravette assistant coach was able to confirm that the snake which hid in Strzelecki's helmet was non-venomous after killing it shortly after it slipped out of his head gear. A day later, school officials made a clean sweep of the school's locker room and all of the equipment used by its teams.

You can see Strzelecki, who was named to NWAOnline's Small Schools 2011 preseason team of the year, in action below.

"It's funny now, but it's something I don't take lightly," Gravette head football coach Bill Harrelson told the AP. "All snakes are deadly in my book."

The aforementioned fall cleaning will probably prove sufficient to ensuring Strzelecki doesn't have further close calls with his equipment, but one can never be certain.

That's even more true when your teammates are calling you "snake boy," hissing at you and wriggling their fingers through the ear hole of your helmet, as Strzelecki found out in the days following his surprising discovery.

"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."

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