Spring 2021 Magazine

Dallas Cowboys RB Ezekiel Elliott pays for funeral of 8th-grade football star struck by stray bullet

The heartbreaking story of Jaylon McKenzie touched the hearts of millions around the country, and Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott has decided to do something about it. Elliott will pay the funeral expenses for McKenzie after the 8th grader was killed by a stray bullet at a party near St. Louis on Saturday night.

Elliott was born and raised in a St. Louis suburb. He reached out to McKenzie’s family shortly after the tragedy.

“Jaylon loved Ezekiel Elliott. He talked about him all the time,” McKenzie’s mother, Sukeena Gunner, told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. “When Ezekiel was playing, he would sit in front of the TV. His eyes were glued to the TV, watching him. Just for [Elliott] to reach out to me and help me in this difficult time leaves me speechless.”

An unnamed 15-year-old girl was struck by a bullet as well, and is currently in critical condition.

At only 14 years old, McKenzie was already receiving attention from Division I colleges for his football talent. He had received offers from Missouri and Illinois and was featured by Sports Illustrated as a future football star.

Dallas Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett wasn’t shocked by the news of Elliott’s generosity.

“[Elliott] is a really special guy,” Garrett said at a golf tournament Wednesday. “He’s a great football player obviously, but he’s a really good person and that doesn’t surprise me one bit.

“He’s just very generous. He’s got a great spirit about him. We see that every day as players and coaches. Anybody that’s been around him knows that, and it doesn’t surprise me one bit that he would get involved there.”

Elliott has taken the NFL by storm since the Cowboys drafted him with the fourth overall pick out of Ohio State in 2016. He has amassed 4,048 rushing yards and 28 rushing touchdowns in 40 career games over his first three NFL seasons. He has twice earned NFL Pro Bowl honors, after winning a national championship with Ohio State during the 2014 season.

“Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.” — Hebrews 13: 16

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