A St. Louis-area family suffered a heartbreaking tragedy last weekend, as Jaylon McKenzie was killed by a stray bullet while trying to leave a party.
McKenzie, a 14-year-old football star who had already received offers from Missouri and Illinois, was one of several teenagers profiled in Sports Illustrated’s “Future” issue last November. A running back, receiver and defensive back who garnered attention after a standout performance in the NFL 8th Grade All-American game last August, he dreamed of playing in the NFL.
His Twitter account featured numerous references to football, such as camps and showcase events he’d been invited to, and shining a light on friends’ achievements. On Feb. 3, when Baltimore Ravens star Ed Reed was announced as a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s class of 2019, McKenzie posted a photo of himself with Reed at an Under Armour All-America game.
Though his mother, Sukeena Gunner, said she and McKenzie usually were traveling on weekends because of his sports schedule, May was a slower month. McKenzie and some friends went to the party in Venice, Ill., just over the Missouri border, and weren’t planning to stay long.
When a fight broke out McKenzie walked outside to get away from it, but was struck by a stray bullet and died at a nearby hospital. A 15-year-old girl was also struck and is still hospitalized.
Gunner said three other NFL players have reached out as well, though they wanted to remain anonymous.
Funeral plans are still being finalized.
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