Two football players from Washburn University — one of them selected by the New York Giants in this week’s NFL Draft — were victims in an off-campus shooting early Sunday morning, the school announced.
Junior defensive back Dwane Simmons, 23, was killed while cornerback Corey Ballentine, also 23, was injured just hours after being taken in the sixth round Saturday by the Giants.
The Giants said they are aware of the shooting, and Ballentine’s injuries are not life-threatening.
“We are aware of the tragic situation and continue to gather information,” the team said in a statement. “We have spoken to Corey and he is recovering in the hospital.”
Officers responded to a disturbance with gunshots in central Topeka, Kansas., roughly four blocks from campus, at approximately 1:46 a.m., ET, Topeka police Lt. John Trimble told USA TODAY Sports. Officers discovered Simmons dead when they arrived. Ballentine had been taken to an area hospital by private vehicle with a non-life-threatening gunshot wound. Trimble said officers were investigating several leads.
A school press conference scheduled for Sunday afternoon to celebrate Ballentine’s selection was postponed.
Washburn head coach Craig Schurig said the news was “heartbreaking,” and Simmons was “one of the most energetic and well-liked players I have ever coached,” whose “infectious smile and love for football and his teammates was truly inspirational.”
Washburn president Dr. Jerry Farley sent a letter to the school community. He said Ballentine is expected to make a full recovery.
“Any time we lose a student it is a sad occasion,” Farley wrote, “but it is particularly poignant to lose a student through such a senseless act.
“This was a terrible way to end a day which should have been a celebration and a day to look forward to Dwane’s upcoming year at Washburn and the beginning of Corey’s professional career.”
Ballentine’s selection at 180th overall was the highest in Washburn history, the NCAA Division II school said in a release. He is the sixth Ichabod ever drafted, and the first in more than a decade since the Titans drafted cornerback Cary Williams in the seventh round in 2008.
Ballentine totaled 186 tackles (113 solo), 10 tackles for loss, four forced fumbles, three fumble recoveries and five interceptions across his career from 2015-18. He also blocked four kicks (second best in school history) and averaged 24.81 yards per kickoff return, while setting Washburn track and field records in the indoor 60- and 200-meter races as well as the outdoor 100 and 200. He was named the small college defensive player of the year in 2018.
Simmons started 17 games in three seasons (he missed 2016 to injury) and notched 59 career tackles (42 solo) in addition to returning three interceptions for 129 yards and a touchdown. The Missouri native majored in mass media.