LEE'S SUMMIT, Mo. -- Dwane Simmons was remembered Thursday night as a small football player, with a big smile and an even bigger heart. Friends, family and teammates gathered at Lee's Summit West to remember the former Titans cornerback shot and killed early Sunday morning just off the campus of Washburn University.
“You go back to the movie 'Remember The Titans,' they were all brought back together on a sad occasion and this reminds you of that," his former football coach Royce Boehm said.
This Titans team gathered five years after Lee’s Summit West's state Championship. The players said they were motivated as freshman by another state championship, and Simmons ability to keep them going.
“When we had hard summers out on this field with conditioning and running and things like that, he’d always be one to try to crack a joke and cheer us up. Out of all people he was one of the happiest souls I’d ever seen," Anthony McGee said.
“Dwane was my best friend, my brother, so it was fitting that he was the other corner and we got to play with our brothers that year, and lead our team to a state championship," Logan Cheadle said.
Simmons went on to play for Washburn where he was celebrating another football friend Corey Ballentine’s selection in the NFL Draft by the New York Giants, when he was shot and killed Sunday morning. Ballentine was also injured by the gunfire, but has been released from the hospital.
“I was supposed to be down there with him celebrating him and Corey. He was my best friend in the world, so it hurt," Cheadle said.
"They said, 'did you hear about Dwane?' And I said, 'no,' and that’s when they told me. I had to leave the (church) service right there I was crying," McGee described of learning of his friend's death. “If you know something come forward say something, he deserves justice, out of all people, out of all souls, he deserves justice.”
But there were smiles too, as they told stories about the player who overcame two ACL injuries, and earned a scholarship after being told he was too small.
His father, Navarro Simmons, told the crowd he was thankful for all the support as they released balloons to the sky remembering his son.
"You talk about good kids and good kids being taken away from you, Dwane was that good kid," Coach Boehm said.