An Illinois eight-grader who was recently featured in Sports Illustrated as one of “Six Teens Who Will Rule the Future in Sports” was killed in a shooting at a party on Saturday night.
Jaylon McKenzie, a 14-year-old student at Mason-Clark Middle School in East. St. Louis, was hit by a stray bullet after a fight started at the prom party, according to witnesses, his mother, Sukeena Gunner, told the St Louis Post-Dispatch.
“It’s so hard to fathom that someone took my baby from me because he dreamed so big,” Gunner said. “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.”
A 15-year-old girl was also seriously injured in the shooting, according to police.
The shooting occurred at about 11:40 p.m. in the 600 block of Third Street in Venice. When law enforcement responded, they found Jaylon, as well as the other girl, with serious injuries. Jaylon succumbed to his wounds shortly after getting to the hospital.
No arrests have been made in the incident, however, police are asking anyone with information to call Illinois State Police Investigations Case Agent Scott Wobbe at 618-381-1467.
Last year, at only 13, Jaylon began drawing the attention of college coaches according to the Sports Illustrated feature “when he caught five passes for 161 yards and two touchdowns to help the East team to a victory at the NFL’s 8th Grade All-American Game in Canton, Ohio, in August.”
His ultimate goal, according to his family, was to be taken in the first round of the NFL draft. He had already had verbal scholarship offers from the University of Missouri and the University of Illinois.
“He wanted to walk across the stage to accept his contract in the NFL,” his grieving mother said. “He told me, ‘We’re going to make it, mama; we’re going to be good, mama.’ That was his dream. And I believe it would have come true if someone had not taken my baby away from me.”