A Washburn University football player was killed, and his teammate who was just selected by the Giants in the NFL draft was injured, during an off-campus shooting.
Dwane Simmons, 23, was killed on Sunday morning. He had been out celebrating with Corey Ballentine, 23, who had been drafted just hours earlier.
Authorities responded to reports of gunfire in a residential street around 12.45am in Topeka, Kansas.
Police said that Simmons was killed in the street from a gunshot wound, according to WIBW.
Ballentine was taken to hospital by private vehicle and is currently being treated. Details of his injuries have not been released but he is expected to make a full recovery.
Topeka police have since launched a homicide investigation into Simmons’ death.
Just hours before the shooting, Ballentine had tweeted that it’s ‘only up from here’.
‘It’s all a crazy dream until you do it,’ he wrote. ‘I can’t even explain the emotions I have right now.’
‘S/o [Shout out] the people that told me to pick a more realistic career. This is as real as it gets. Thank you to the Giants organization for believing in me. It’s only up from here. #GiantsPride.’
Washburn president Dr Jerry Farley broke the devastating news on Sunday morning with a letter to the Kansas university.
‘Any time we lost a student it is a sad occasion, but it is particularly poignant to lose a student through such a senseless act,’ the statement read.
‘Both Dwane and Corey have been great examples and representatives of the football team and of Washburn University in general.’
‘This was a terrible way to end a day which should have been a day of celebration and a day to look forward to Dwane’s upcoming year at Washburn and the beginning of Corey’s professional career.’
Head coach Craig Schurig said Simmons’ death was heartbreaking.
‘Dwane is one of the most energetic and well-liked players I have ever coached at Washburn,’ he said in a statement.
‘Dwane’s infectious smile and love for football and his teammates was truly inspirational. Our prayers of healing go out to his family.’
Simmons was a junior mass media major from Lee’s Summit, Missouri. He played at Washburn from 2015 to 2018, overcoming ACL tears to both of his knees.
‘It’s more than a game to me now,’ Simmons told the Topeka Capital-Journal last fall after he returned to the field. ‘I came in as a walk-on and had to earn a scholarship, then tore an ACL, redshirted and tore another one.’
‘It really puts everything in perspective that this game can be taken away from you in a blink of an eye. So I take this game to heart. I get emotional about this stuff and I take this game very, very seriously, and I’m having a great time.’
The Giants took Ballentine in the sixth round of the 2019 NFL Draft, 180th overall. He is just the sixth player to be drafted from Washburn’s Division II football program.
If Ballentine does sign with the Giants, he could expect to make around $500,000 as a rookie were he to play an entire season.
Washburn was one of the few schools willing to take a chance on Ballentine, who said he was a ‘late bloomer’ when it came to football and was on an academic scholarship at the university.
But Ballentine caught the attention of the NFL when he was one of only three NCAA Division II players to be selected for the 2019 Senior Bowl.
Hours before he was shot, Ballentine told reporters that being drafted felt ‘surreal’.
‘I’m sure you’ve heard it a lot, but this is something I’ve always dreamed of,’ he added. ‘It took me back to the moment when I got recruited to college and I told my coaches this is something I wanted to do, I wanted to go to the NFL.’
‘Now that the moment is here, I’m trying to soak it in really. I worked so long to prepare for this moment. Now I’m finally getting to figure out my destination.’
Investigators are asking anyone with information to call the Topeka Police Criminal Investigation Bureau at 785-368-9400 or Shawnee Co. Crime Stoppers at 785-234-0007
SOURCE: Daily Mail, Anneta Konstantinides