NFL star to pay for funeral of Illinois teen football star killed in shooting

VENICE, Ill. — An NFL star running back will pay for the funeral of a teenage football player who died in a shooting in Venice, Ill.inois.

The Dallas Cowboys’ Ezekiel Elliott will cover the costs for Jaylon McKenzie’s funeral.

A stray bullet killed the 14-year-old following an eighth grade dance last Saturday night. A memorial service will be held May 18.

The 14-year-old from Belleville, Illinois, was an eighth-grader who already had college offers from University of Missouri and University of Illinois.

He was featured in the Future Issue of Sports Illustrated in November 2018 along with five other teen sports stars. He wanted to be a pro star in California, playing for either the Los Angeles Rams or Chargers.

Those dreams died late Saturday when Jaylon was shot and killed at a party.

Jaylon had been at the party when a fight broke out, his mom said. Jaylon walked outside to leave the party, and a stray bullet hit him. He and a 15-year-old girl were taken to a hospital where Jaylon died a short time after, police said.

His family says they wish they could rewind to times such as when they wore matching t-shirts ahead of Jaylon’s first game of the season.

“Our shirts say ‘It’s a team Jaylon thing, you wouldn’t understand,” said his mother Sukenna Gunner.

“We never missed a game, never missed a track meet, never missed a basketball game, all of it, we were there,” said his father Otis Gunner.

They were there for every touchdown, goal and finish line he crossed, but Jaylon’s brother Brendan Jenkins says its not the big wins but the little moments he misses the most.

“I just remember everyday going in his room to wake him up for school and he’s looking at me like ‘just get out, I’ll get up when I want,” Brendan said. “It hurts to know that I can’t do it anymore, I’m going to miss him.”

Jaylon’s family that was always focused on supporting him is now leaning on others for that same strength.

“The support that we’ve been getting makes it a little bit easier,” said Otis.

Tributes are pouring in from around the country, highlighting that a teen was robbed of a promising football career and high school diploma.

“I didn’t know my son touched this many people,” said Otis.

The tragic shooting struck a chord with Elliot, a St. Louis native. Representatives for Elliott say he wants to keep his donation private.

“Words couldn’t express how we feel about that. It’s just crazy he didn’t have to do that,” Otis said.

A GoFundMe page has also been set up to help pay for the family’s expenses.

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