Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott will cover the funeral expenses for 14-year-old Jaylon McKenzie, a football prodigy who was shot and killed last weekend at a party, according to multiple media reports.
Elliott is from Alton, Ill., which is about 35 miles from McKenzie’s home of Belleville, Ill.
“Jaylen loved Ezekiel Elliott,” McKenzie’s mother, Sukeena Gunner, told the Belleville News-Democrat. “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.”
Gunner “burst into tears” when asked about Elliott’s offer to take care of the funeral costs, according to the News-Democrat.
”Just for him to reach out to me and help me in this difficult time leaves me speechless.” Gunner said.
An eighth-grader at Central Junior High, McKenzie was featured in Sports Illustrated’s Future issue last fall and already had scholarship offers from Missouri and Illinois. Gunner said her son was hit by a stray bullet after a fight broke out at a party he was attending Saturday night. Police found McKenzie with serious wounds and he later died at a hospital.
Elliott was drafted No. 4 overall by the Cowboys in 2016. He led the league in rushing as a rookie (1,631 yards) and again last season (1,434 yards). He served a six-game suspension in 2017 after being accused of, but not charged with, domestic violence.
The two-time Pro Bowler seems to be on a mission to generate positive headlines this offseason — comforting a young Dallas Stars fan hit by a puck, playing ping-pong with members of the Dallas Fire Department and taking part in a charity event hosted by legendary Cowboys running back Emmitt Smith.
“I think that Zeke has always had a wonderful heart,” Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said Tuesday, according to SportsDay. “He’s a bright soul, I call him.”