Rest In Peace Jaylon McKenzie

Teen football phenom killed by stray bullet in Illinois while trying to leave party

A 14-year-old football phenom featured in Sports Illustrated was killed on Saturday night after he was hit by a stray bullet while leaving a party in Venice, Illinois. Police said Jaylon McKenzie and a 15-year-old girl were both struck by gunfire after they left a house where the party was being held. The girl who was shot is in critical condition.

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A photo of 14-year-old football phenom Jaylon McKenzie provided by his mother. KMOV VIA SUKEENA GUNNER

According to CBS affiliate KMOV-TV, McKenzie’s mother, Sukeena Gunner, said her son was trying to avoid a fight when he left the party. He was taken to Gateway Hospital in Granite City, Illinois, where he died of his wounds.

Despite not yet being in high school, McKenzie’s talent was so remarkable that he was featured in the November 2018 issue of Sports Illustrated in an article titled “Six Teens Who Will Rule the Future of Sports.”

“Jaylon—who plays running back, receiver and defensive back—drew national attention when he caught five passes for 161 yards and two touchdowns to help the East team to a victory at the NFL’s 8th Grade All-American Game in Canton, Ohio, in August,” the article said. “Jaylon expects to be playing in the NFL. His dream? To be a star in L.A.—for the Rams or the Chargers.”

His basketball coach, Al Lewis, told KMOV the teen was as humble as he was talented.

“His talent was unparalleled,” Lewis said. “If you didn’t see him on the field, court or track you wouldn’t know he was a super star.”

The high school sports prospect website 247 Sportsconfirms McKenzie had already received scholarship offers to play football at the University of Illinois and the University of Missouri.

According to a statement sent to CBS News, Illinois State Police Investigations out of Collinsville is assisting in the homicide investigation of McKenzie and the shooting of the female juvenile victim. No other information is being released at this time.

Anyone who witnessed the shooting or has any knowledge of the shooting is asked to contact the ISP Investigations Case Agent Scott Wobbe at 618-381-1467. Callers can remain anonymous.

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