8th-Grade Football Star Honored by Sports Illustrated Shot Dead by Stray Bullet

Jaylon McKenzie was a football legend at age 14.
Jaylon McKenzie was at a party Saturday night. Twitter

A middle school football player named by Sports Illustrated as an athlete who "will rule the future in sports" was killed by a stray bullet outside a party Saturday night in East St. Louis, Illinois.

Jaylon McKenzie, 14, was an eighth-grade student at Mason Clark Middle School and was preparing to leave a gathering because a fight had broken out, his mother said.

The boy had walked outside and was trying to avoid the fight when gun fire broke out, his mom, Sukeena Gunner, told KSDK-TV

"My baby had just such a promising future, and for his life to just end in just a senseless killing with someone else that had no regard for life. 

"Just prayer, prayer is all I can really ask for right now," she said.

A 15-year-old girl was also hit and remains in critical condition, authorities said. She was not identified. Both had gone to an after-prom party in Venice. State police were called after a fight erupted, according to officials.

No arrests have been made, and Illinois State Police Investigations officers were asking for the public's help in identifying the shooter. 

McKenzie, according to social media posts by him and his mother, had recently been offered football scholarships by the University of Illinois and the University of Missouri. 

The boy's dream was to play in the NFL for the Los Angeles Rams or the Chargers.

In November, Sports Illustrated honored him as one of its "Six Teens Who Will Rule the Future in Sports." The teen, who played running back, receiver and defensive back, received national attention after helping his team win the NFL's 8th Grade All-American Game in Ohio last year. 

He caught five passes for 161 yards and scored two touchdowns in the game. 

The sports magazine noted that McKenzie had hoped "to follow in the footsteps of Titans cornerback Adoree' Jadson, a star at USC, who is also from the St. Louis suburb of Belleville and also played both ways."

The pro football star reacted to McKenzie's death on Twitter.

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