NFL Giants Draft Pick Wounded, Friend Killed in Drive-By Shooting

Chris Jasurek
By Chris Jasurek
April 29, 2019Sportsshare
NFL Giants Draft Pick Wounded, Friend Killed in Drive-By Shooting
Corey Ballentine competes in the vertical jump during day five of the NFL Combine in Indianapolis, Ind., on March 4, 2019. (Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

Two Washburn University football players were shot, one fatally, while leaving an off-campus party in the early hours of April 28.

Dwane Simmons and Corey Ballantine, both 23 years old, were outside a party at a private home in downtown Topeka, Kansas, sometime after midnight when they were caught up in what police describe as “a disturbance with gunshots.”

Police arrived on the scene around 12:45 a.m. and found Dwane Simmons dead in the street.

Posted by Corey Ballentine on Thursday, March 21, 2019

Ballantine arrived at a local hospital shortly after, driven by a friend. His wounds are not life-threatening, and he is expected to recover fully.

Exactly what happened is unclear. The pair were celebrating Ballantine’s having gotten drafted by the NFL’s New York Giants at a party hosted by the college’s women’s soccer team in a neighborhood about four blocks from the Washburn University campus.

Simmons and Ballantine had left the party and were standing in the street outside talking with a group of fellow football players, when a car full of people passed by, according to the Kansas City Star.

Someone in the car spoke with the players. The car drove off, turned around, and returned. As the car passed by the group, someone inside opened fire.

“No arrests have been made at this time,” Topeka police spokeswoman Gretchen Koenen told The New York Times. “Detectives are continuing to investigate.” 

Giant’s Draft Pick Recovering

Ballantine had received the best news of his life just hours before he and his friend were shot.

Shortly after 8 p.m. on April 27, the NFL’s New York Giants announced that they had chosen Ballantine in the sixth round of the draft.

Ballantine’s exceptional athletic ability earned the attention of NFL scouts. The 6-foot, 200-pound cornerback scored 186 tackles (113 solo,) four blocked kicks, and five interceptions in his 46-game college career. 

Ballantine’s efforts earned him the 2018 Cliff Harris Award as the small college defensive player of the year, and a spot on the 2019 Senior Bowl team.

After the football season ended, Ballantine ran with the university’s track and field team, where he held numerous school records.

Not just a standout athlete, Ballantine, a business major, excelled in the classroom as well, making the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association Honor Roll six times. According to the New York Giants, Ballantine’s scouting report on NFL.com described him as having  “High character with same work ethic in the classroom that he has on the field.”   

The Giants organization released a statement on Sunday saying, “We are aware of the tragic situation and continue to gather information. We have spoken to Corey, and he is recovering in the hospital. Our thoughts are with Dwane Simmons’s family, friends and teammates and the rest of the Washburn community.”

Dwane Simmons overcame multiple injuries
Dwane Simmons overcame multiple injuries to earn a place on the Washburn University football team. (Dwane Simmons/Facebook)

Simmons Grew Through Injury

Dwane Simmons was a junior at Washburn University, majoring in mass media. He joined the school’s football team in 2015 and played in 22 games. He racked up 59 tackles—42 solo—and three interceptions, including one returned for a touchdown.

Simmons playing career was hindered by injuries—he missed all of the 2016 season and all but two games in 2017 with torn tendons in his knees. The 5-foot-9, 170-pound defensive back didn’t let his injuries get him down. “Adversity defines true character,” he said in his Twitter biography. “Doubters are my motivators.”

“Dwane is one of the most energetic and well-liked players I have ever coached at Washburn,” head coach Craig Schurig said in a statement about the shooting. “Dwane’s infectious smile and love for football and his teammates was truly inspirational. 

Celebrating a Friend’s Success

Simmons and Ballantine were more than just teammates—there were roommates and close friends.

Simmons’s last two tweets, posted just hours before his death, celebrated his friend’s success.

Simmons’s father, Navarro Simmons, posted a video on Facebook on the afternoon of the 27th, saying, “Congrats to my sons corner-mate, roommate, and best friend at Washburn University, Corey Ballentine on being drafted by the New York Giants! Good football player, but an even better person.” 

Congrats to my sons corner-mate, roommate, and best friend at Washburn University, Corey Ballentine on being drafted by the New York Giants! Good football player, but a even better person. #preparationmeetsopportunity

Posted by Navarro Simmons on Saturday, April 27, 2019

Simmons told the Kansas City Star that “This was a senseless murder. This shattered a lot of people.”

“You hurt a lot of people,” Simmons said to the as-yet-unidentified shooter. “Turn yourself in.”

Simmons’s wife, Yasmine Simmons, posted on Facebook, “Today I got news that no parent wants to hear.

“I’m posting this for all friends and family who love Dwane that I can’t possibly reach at this time. Dwane was a great kid, and I will miss my son dearly. Thank you God for allowing me to hug my son Tuesday, and tell him how much I love him and how proud I am to be his Yama.

“Please keep my entire family in your prayers. This hurts like no other.”

Dwane Simmons is not the first family member Navarro Simmons has had to bury because of a senseless crime. In 2000, Simmons’s brother Michael was shot to death during a car-jacking attempt. His killer received a life sentence.

Topeka police asked anyone with information about the shooting to call the Topeka Criminal Investigation Bureau at 785-368-9400 or the Shawnee County Crime Stoppers at 785-234-0007. Anonymous tips can be made online at p3tips.com/128.

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