Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott reached out to the family of a 14-year-old football phenom who was shot and killed by a stray bullet and offered to pay for his funeral. Jaylon McKenzie, who was featured in Sports Illustrated last year, was killed as he was leaving a house party in Venice, Illinois on Saturday (May 4) night.
While Elliott, who grew up just a few hours from McKenzie's hometown of Belleville, Missouri, declined to talk about his gesture, Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett told reporters that he wasn't surprised by Elliot's actions.
"Zeke is really a special guy. He's got a great spirit about him, and we see that every day as players and coaches," Garrett said. "He's someone that a lot of people look up to – a lot of people certainly in St. Louis and Missouri, Ohio State, all across this country. If you're a fan of football you know Zeke Elliott. And anybody who's been around him on a daily basis knows what kind of person he is. So it doesn't surprise me one bit."
McKenzie went to Mason-Clark Middle School in East St. Louis, Missouri and had a bright future ahead of him. Despite being in middle school, he had already received scholarship offers from two colleges and dreamed of playing football for either the Los Angeles Rams or Los Angeles Chargers.
"It's so generous," Gunner told the newspaper. "I remember Jaylon watching him cross that stage [at the NFL draft] and thinking: 'I can do this,' so it means a lot."
Gunner said that two other players also reached out and offered to pay for the funeral expenses, but they wished to remain anonymous.
A 15-year-old girl who was with McKenzie was also shot and remains in the hospital in critical condition.
Authorities are still investigating the shooting and have not made any arrests.
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