Jaylon McKenzie, an eighth-grade football star who was featured in Sports Illustrated’s 2018 “Six Teens Who Will Rule the Future in Sports” was fatally shot while leaving a party Saturday night.
According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, on May 4 Jaylon attended a dance at Mason-Clark Middle School then went to another school’s after-prom party in Venice, Illinois.
Around 11:40 p.m., police responded to reports of shots fired. When officials arrived on the scene, they discovered Jaylon and an unidentified 15-year-old girl had been shot.
Jaylon died shortly after arriving at an area hospital. The girl survived but remains in critical condition.
Jaylon’s mother, Sukeena Gunner, told the Post-Dispatch she learned about the shooting when she heard one of her son’s friends was trying to contact her. When she called her son’s phone, the friend picked up and told her about the shooting.
She said witnesses at the party claimed a stray bullet struck McKenzie while he was trying to flee a fight.
“It’s so hard to fathom that someone took my baby from me because he dreamed so big,” Gunner told the local newspaper. “I can just remember him coming into my room and telling my husband to call his name. ‘We have a 5-6 running back, Jayyyyy-lonnnn MacKenzieeee.’ And he would run into the room after his name was called.”
At only 14 years old, Jaylon had already received national attention from college football coaches.
According to Sports Illustrated, Jaylon — who played running back, receiver and defensive back — participated in the NFL’s 8th Grade All-American Game in Canton, Ohio, in August 2018.
During the game, he caught five passes for 161 yards and two touchdowns to lead his team to victory.
Gunner said her son’s goal was to be drafted in the National Football League in the first round and hopefully play for a team in Los Angeles.
“He wanted to attend a Division I university, no specific one, but he was excited about the offers coming in. A few coaches were in last week. LSU was watching him, Western Michigan were in town and got a chance to see him practice,” Gunner said.
Police have not made any arrests in connection with the shooting.
Anyone who witnessed the shooting is asked to call Illinois State Police Investigations Case Agent Scott Wobbe at 618-381-1467.
(Photo: WBBM-TV / CBS2)