Football phenom Jaylon McKenzie killed at prom party; 14-year-old already had college offers

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VENICE, Ill. – His life was filled with promise.  Jaylon McKenzie was considered one of the top football prospects in the country even though he was only an eighth-grader.

The 14-year-old was shot and killed Saturday night at an after-prom party in Venice, Illinois.  Police say a 15-year-old female was critically wounded.

In November 2018, Sports Illustrated featured McKenzie as one of six athletes in the country who were destined to dominate their sports. A month later, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports, McKenzie started receiving verbal offers from colleges looking to recruit him.

“He wasn’t a violent kid,” said McKenzie’s mother Sukeen Gunner.  “He was a humble kid with a beautiful smile and a bright future that’s gone too soon.”

Family and friends came to Gunner’s home in Belleville to comfort her.   “Today is my mom’s birthday,” she said.  “They took my baby on my mom’s birthday.”

She said her son started playing football at the age of 3 and was a natural but never bragged about his skills.  Gunner said her son was determined to work hard and improve not only in football but also classroom work.  She said, “His work ethic was just unbelievable.”

Gunner appreciates those who have expressed their sympathies and is asking for prayers.  She said, “I thank God for the 14 years God allowed me to be with him.”

Illinois State Police investigators encourage anyone with information on this case to contact them.

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