ST. LOUIS — An eighth-grade football player from suburban St. Louis who already had scholarship offers from Division I colleges was shot and killed at a party Saturday night, police said.
Jaylon McKenzie, 14, who attended Mason-Clark Middle School in East St. Louis, Ill., attended an eighth-grade dance earlier in the evening, his mother, Sukeena Gunner, told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. She picked him up, and then he and friends went to an after-prom party for another school in nearby Venice, Ill.
She said that just before midnight, she called her son’s phone, and a friend who answered told her McKenzie had been shot.
“It’s so hard to fathom that someone took my baby from me because he dreamed so big,” Gunner said.
She said witnesses told her that a fight broke out at the party and that McKenzie was hit by a stray bullet.
McKenzie already had received scholarship offers. He received one from Missouri in December and, more recently, from Illinois. He shared the Illinois offer on Twitter on Monday, writing: “Blessed to receive my second D1 offer from Illinois.”
“He wanted to attend a Division I university, no specific one, but he was excited about the offers coming in,” Gunner told the newspaper. “A few coaches were in last week. LSU was watching him, Western Michigan were in town and got a chance to see him practice.”
In November, Sports Illustrated featured him in an article titled: “Six Teens Who Will Rule the Future in Sports.”
Sports Illustrated said McKenzie got on the national radar last August when he played at the NFL’s eighth-grade All-American game in Canton, Ohio.
He caught five passes for 161 yards and two touchdowns. He played running back, receiver and defensive back.
He told that magazine that in 2030, he wanted to play in Los Angeles and star for either the Rams or Chargers.