Dallas Cowboys player Ezekiel Elliott has offered to pay for funeral expenses of an eighth-grade football star who was shot at a party earlier this month.
Jaylon McKenzie, 14, was hit by a stray bullet while leaving a party in Venice, Illinois, Saturday with a friend, who was also shot. The girl, 15, remains in critical condition.
Jaylon had a bright future ahead of him and had already received football scholarship offers from universities before ever playing a high school game. He was also featured in Sports Illustrated in the 2018 article “Six Teens Who Will Rule the Future of Sports.”
When Elliott, who grew up in St. Louis, heard of Jaylon’s death, he reached out to his family and offered to help with expenses. The Cowboys have confirmed Elliott’s plans, CBS News reported.
“For him to reach out to me was unbelievable,” his mother, Sukeena Gunner, told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. “Jaylon 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.”
Elliott plans to keep his interactions with the family private, according to CBS News.
Gunner posted a message on Facebook thanking everyone for their support.
“The many acts of kindness from all who [have] reached out continue to be a great comfort for my family and I,” she wrote.
Jaylon’s funeral is scheduled for May 18 in St. Louis. The shooting is still being investigated by the Illinois State Police.