Jaylon McKenzie, an eighth grade football phenom from Mason-Clark Middle School in Illinois, was shot and killed by a stray bullet at a party Saturday night, CNN reports.
McKenzie’s mother, Sukeena Gunner, told CNN that her son was walking outside of the party after a fight broke out when he was hit by a stray bullet. Jaylon and a 15-year-old girl were rushed to the hospital where he died shortly thereafter. She is in critical condition.
McKenzie was picked up from his eighth grade dance by his mother at around 8 p.m. that same night before leaving with his friends an hour later. Gunner discovered shortly after midnight that one of her son’s friends was trying to get in touch with her. When she tried calling him, one of his friends answered “and told me he had been shot.”
“It’s so hard to fathom that someone took my baby from me because he dreamed so big,” Gunner told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “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 13, McKenzie was featured in Sports Illustrated as one of the “six teens who will rule the future in sports.” One year later, he had drawn the attention of collegiate football programs, such as the University of Missouri and University of Illinois, that already extended verbal scholarship offers.