New York Giants’ sixth-round draft pick Corey Ballentine posted an emotional tribute Monday to his former Washburn University football teammate who was killed over the weekend when they were gunned down after leaving a party in Kansas.
“God gives his toughest battles to his strongest soldiers. I love you forever,” Ballentine said in a tribute to Dwane Simmons, a defensive back who was entering his senior year at the university.
“Thank you for being a true friend who uplifted me, corrected me when I was in the wrong, and accepted my flaws. Thank you for being a brother to me. Thank you for letting me experience your life,” he tweeted.
Ballentine and Simmons were out celebrating the 23-year-old cornerback being selected as the 180th overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft on Saturday. The former teammates left the party about 12:45 a.m. Sunday near the school’s campus in Topeka and were stopped by two to four men asking “if they had a smoke,” Simmons’ father, Navarro Simmons, told FOX4KC.
"Some guys rolled up and asked if they had some smoke or something else for sale," Simmons said. "Dwane and Corey said 'no' and they just drove off and came back around and opened fire. And killed Dwane, and we're just left in many broken pieces."
Ballentine was rushed to the hospital and treated for a gunshot wound. Police did not say where Ballentine was struck by the bullet, but reports said the player suffered a gunshot wound to the glute.
As for his future in the NFL, Giants general manager Dave Gettleman told SiriusXM NFL radio Monday that Ballentine — who reportedly has been released from the hospital — was expected to join the team for its minicamp this weekend.
"He's a really bright kid and he's a great kid," Gettleman said. "What happened is tragic and unfortunate. That's his best friend he was with. We spoke to him on Sunday. He's coming along fine. He'll be here Thursday for the minicamp this weekend."
Topeka police have released few details on the shooting, but said they were questioning more than 20 potential witnesses Monday in hopes of catching the killer. Ballentine was also asked about the incident, but authorities said they intend to conduct a longer interview.
Dwane Simmons’ family urged anyone with information on the shooting to contact police.
"If you hear anything please speak up. Please go to the authorities. Dwane deserves justice,” Navarro Simmons told FOX4KC on Sunday.
Ballentine was the sixth Washburn University football player to be drafted and the first since 2008, when Cary Williams was selected by the Tennessee Titans, the university said. Ballentine appeared in 46 games and won the 2018 Cliff Harris Award for the small college defensive player of the year.
He was also the first Washburn player to be selected for the 2019 Reese’s Senior Bowl.
The Giants said in an earlier statement they were aware of the “tragic situation” and offered their condolences to the Simmons family.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.