David E. Klutho

Jaylon McKenzie, an eighth-grade football phenom, was featured in Sports Illustrated's Future Issue in November 2018.

By Charlotte Carroll
May 08, 2019

Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott will pay for the funeral expenses for Jaylon McKenzie, an eighth-grade football phenom, who was killed on Saturday in Venice, Ill., according to multiple reports. 

Elliott is also from the St. Louis area, and according to reports, he contacted the family to offer his condolences and offered to pay for the service. 

"For him to reach out to me was unbelievable," his mother, Sukeena Gunner told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. "Jaylen loved Ezekiel Elliott. He talked about him all the time. When Ezekiel was playing, he would sit in front of the TV. His eyes were glued to the TV, watching him. Just for him to reach out to me and help me in this difficult time leaves me speechless."

The news was first reported by 105.3 The Fan's Mike Fisher and Justina Coronel of KSDK-TV in St. Louis. Gunner told KSDK that three other NFL players have also reached out. 

McKenzie attended Central Junior High in Belleville, Ill, and was featured in Sports Illustrated's Future Issue in November 2018. He was one of six teenagers included in the piece. McKenzie told SI his dream was to make the NFL, and he already had offers from Missouri and Illinois.

The 14-year-old was shot when a stray bullet hit him as he walked outside to leave a party, Gunner, told CNN. A 15-year-old girl is also in critical condition. 

"I just started screaming," Gunner told CNN. "I just prayed and asked the Lord not to take my baby. ... It's very hard. It's still like a bad dream, like I'm gonna wake up in the morning and my baby's gonna be smiling at me asking for something to eat like he always does."

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