Jaylon McKenzie, 8th grade football phenom, Sports Illustrated rising star, fatally shot at Illinois house party

Jaylon McKenzie, 8th grade football phenom, Sports Illustrated rising star, fatally shot at Illinois house party
The 14-year-old was recently profiled by Sports Illustrated as one of America's "Six Teens Who Will Rule the Future in Sports" and dreamed of playing in the NFL.

(Gray News/CNN) - A 14-year-old rising football star who had plans of going to the NFL and was recently profiled by Sports Illustrated as one of America’s “Six Teens Who Will Rule the Future in Sports” was shot and killed Saturday.

Jaylon McKenzie went to a party in Venice, Illinois with some friends Saturday night, when a fight broke out.

Jaylon’s mother, Sukeena Gunner said he walked outside to leave the party and was hit by a stray bullet.

"They stopped by the party, not with any intentions to staying long," Gunner said. They were there to pick up something from a friend.

Gunner told CNN the family is having a hard time coming to terms with the child’s sudden death.

"It's very hard," she said. "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."

Jaylon was a star, play-making running back in the 2023 class at Central Junior High.

The school district says Jaylon was one of several students shot that night.

"School District 189 has learned that a few of our students were shot at a house party in Venice, IL at some point Saturday night," a statement from the district read. "Few details are clear at this point. We do know that our youth, families and school staff have dealt with a number of tragedies and incidents of violence this year. We request space and time for them to appropriately grieve and come to terms with this latest impact of violence."

Sports Illustrated named Jaylon, as one of “Six Teens Who Will Rule the Future in Sports.

"An eighth-grader at Central Junior High, 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," Sports Illustrated wrote in its "Six Teens Who Will Rule the Future in Sports" article in November. "Last year, Jaylon rushed for 1,546 yards and 21 TDs for his youth football team, the East St. Louis Jr. Flyers."

The 14-year-old football phenom already had offers from University of Missouri and University of Illinois.

"He is the best quarterback on the team, best wide-out on the team, best defensive back and by far the best running back. Therefore, to label him as one of them in particular, is doing him a disservice,” East St Louis Jr. Flyers football coach Robert Boyd said in an interview published in 2018. “However, primarily he’s been a dominating running back, because carrying the ball out the backfield is simply natural to him.”

Police are asking anyone who witnessed the shooting to call Illinois State Police.

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