Ezekiel Elliott Will Pay for the Funeral of the Teen Football Phenom Killed in His Hometown

May 08, 2019 - 12:50 pm

(105.3 The Fan) Ezekiel Elliott has spent this offseason as a positive force for his Dallas Cowboys teammates and in the Dallas-Fort Worth community, helping to gather other Cowboys for "Leadership Conference'' road trips, donating time to charity ventures and serving as a protective team mascot for the NHL's Dallas Stars in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

''Zeke is inspirational with not only what he does on the field, but what he does in the locker room,'' Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said. "He's a 'bright soul.'''

Back home in Elliott's native St. Louis area, a "bright soul'' is desperately needed by the family of Jaylon McKenzie, a 14-year-old rising football star from Belleville, Ill., who on Saturday night was shot and killed while attending a party. The eighth-grader who already had scholarship offers from the University of Missouri and the University of Illinois had such a promising future he was recently featured in the Sports Illustrated.

Behind the scenes, Elliott has contacted the family to offer comfort and to pay for McKenzie's funeral.

McKenzie's mother, Sukeena Gunner, told CNN that her son was at a gathering in Venice, near the Illinois-Missouri border. A fight broke out, and when McKenzie walked outside to leave the party, he was struck by a stray bullet.

"I just started screaming," Gunner said. "I just prayed and asked the Lord not to take my baby. ... It's very hard. 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."

Elliott has won two rushing title in his three NFL seasons. His reputation off the field has been colored by a six-game suspension in 2017 for violation of the NFL's personal conduct policy stemming from allegations of domestic violence.

"These players can see through anybody. All you got to do is go in locker room, and you'll see that Zeke is inspirational," Jones said.

Regarding the 23-year-old Elliott's maturity, Jones added: "There was really no doubt that some of those things that frankly reflect just a spirit of positiveness, a spirit of being alive, those kind of things took some adjusting. ... Zeke has always had a wonderful heart.''

Having said all of that, Elliott surely does not want this story to be about him. This story should be about the passing of a talented young man in St. Louis, Jaylon McKenzie, whose first spoken word, according to his mother, was "ball.''

"He wasn't a man of many words," Gunner said. "He had a humbling personality. He wasn't very outgoing, but everybody knew him and loved him."

By Mike Fisher