Wilmington middle schooler to honor former teammate Jaylon McKenzie at school dance

Updated: May. 16, 2019 at 5:45 PM EDT
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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - Aliam Appler wants to make one final completion to Jaylon McKenzie, a former teammate and football phenom who was fatally shot after leaving a party the day of his middle school dance.

Appler, an eighth grade student at Noble Middle School, made the decision to wear a black and red ribbon — a color combination meant raise awareness for victims of murder — to his upcoming dance to honor his fallen friend. And he’s getting his classmates involved also.

Appler and McKenzie met at the USA National Team U14 game and continued to play together in the Pro Football Hall of Fame 8th Grade All-American game. They weren’t familiar with each other until after the games and their play sparked a good friendship.

“We didn’t talk much in practice but during the game, when I threw two touchdowns to him, we started to bond a lot and we started to talk a lot," said Appler. “To think about almost a year ago, I was throwing a touchdown to him on the HOF field and .. yeah it’s just crazy. I can’t really think about it.”

Both players’ families became close after the two played together. When Appler first heard the news he reached out to Sukeena Gunner, Jaylon’s mom, and said they were in his thoughts and prayers.

The Noble Middle School dance is Friday, May 17.

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