Slain football prodigy dreamed of playing in L.A. for the Rams or Chargers

Jaylon McKenzie already had NFL aspirations at age 14.

Featured in Sports Illustrated’s Future Issue late last year, the eighth-grader at Central Junior High in Belleville, Ill., revealed he hoped to one day live in Los Angeles and become a star player for the Rams or Chargers.

Tragically, he won’t get the chance. McKenzie was fatally shot at a party late Saturday night, police told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Police found McKenzie with serious wounds and he later died at a hospital. A 15-year-old girl was also shot at the party and is said to be in critical condition. No arrests have been made in the case.

McKenzie’s mother, Sukeena Gunner, confirmed her son’s death to CNN on Sunday.


She said her son, who also played basketball and ran track, had stopped by the party with some friends to pick something up from another friend. When a fight broke out at the party, Gunner said, McKenzie went outside to leave and was hit by a stray bullet.

Sign up for our daily sports newsletter »

McKenzie was featured in Sports Illustrated after catching five passes for 161 yards and two touchdowns in the NFL’s 8th Grade All-American Game in Canton, Ohio, last summer. Also a running back and defensive back, McKenzie told the magazine he wanted to follow in the footsteps of Tennessee Titans cornerback Adoree’ Jackson, a former USC star who comes from the same St. Louis suburb as McKenzie.

Jackson responded to McKenzie’s death Sunday on Twitter. “You Was Next Up and taken too soon!” he tweeted. “We have to do better.. Rest Easy.”


McKenzie tweeted in December that he received a scholarship offer from Missouri.

On April 29, McKenzie tweeted he received an offer from Illinois.

He died five days later.

“It’s very hard,” Gunner told CNN. “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.”

Twitter: @chewkiii