When Corey Ballentine, a speedy cornerback with a knack for blocking kicks, was drafted by the Giants on Saturday, it was cause for celebration at Washburn University in Kansas. No member of the Division II Washburn Ichabods had been drafted in more than a decade, and none had gone earlier in the draft since 1988.
“It’s all a crazy dream until you do it,” Ballentine said in a Twitter post after he was selected in the sixth round. “I can’t even explain the emotions I have right now.”
Just hours later, Ballentine’s triumph took on a tragic note when he and a college teammate, Dwane Simmons, were shot a few blocks from Washburn’s Topeka campus. Ballentine was expected to make a full recovery, the university said. Simmons died.
The circumstances of the shooting, which happened in a residential neighborhood near businesses that cater to college students, remained hazy on Sunday afternoon. The Topeka police said officers responded about 12:45 a.m. Sunday to “a disturbance with gunshots in the area” and found Simmons dead at the scene. Ballentine was taken to a hospital by a private car.
“No arrests have been made at this time,” Gretchen Koenen, a spokeswoman for the Topeka police, said in an email. “Detectives are continuing to investigate.”
The impact was quickly felt at Washburn, located about two miles from the Kansas Capitol. Instead of a planned Sunday afternoon news conference celebrating the selection , a Topeka native, grief counselors were posted on campus.
“Any time we lose a student it is a sad occasion, but it is particularly poignant to lose a student through such a senseless act,” the university’s president, Jerry Farley, said in a statement. “Both Dwane and Corey have been great examples and representatives of the football team and of Washburn University in general.”
Simmons, 23, was a junior at Washburn, where he had started 17 games as a defensive back despite injuries. He was described by his coach, Craig Schurig, as “one of the most energetic and well-liked players” he had encountered.
Ballentine, 23, competed on the football and track and field teams at Washburn, where he holds school sprint records and was a frequent member of his conference’s academic honor roll. In a statement posted on Twitter, the Giants said they were aware of the shooting.
“We have spoken to Corey, and he is recovering in the hospital,” the team’s statement said.
The shooting in Topeka was one of several this year in which college football players have been shot away from the field. On Saturday, John Scott III, a defensive lineman for Texas Tech, was injured by gunfire. In February, Larry Aaron III, a Marshall defensive lineman, died from gunshot wounds he sustained weeks earlier during a New Year’s party. And last month, a College of William & Mary player was shot dead in Virginia and two Texas A&M-Commerce players were shot and wounded while being robbed on a trip to Florida.
The latest such incident came just hours after a joyous phone call in which the Giants’ coach, Pat Shurmur, told Ballentine that he would be the 180th pick in the draft.
“Are you healthy, ready to play?” Shurmur asked his new player in a video that was posted on Twitter.
“Yes, sir, I’m ready to get started,” Ballentine responded. He added: “I’ve been waiting on this opportunity for a lifetime, really.”