EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (WIBW) - When Corey Ballentine's mind gets pulled back to that tragic night, he thinks of the best friend he lost and what Dwane Simmons would tell him.
Courtesy of the New York Giants
"I know he wouldn't want me sulking, being down and what not," Ballentine said of Dwane Simmons. "So I'm just going to do my best and make this team."
For the first time since he and Simmons were shot hours after Ballentine became the highest-drafted Washburn football player in program history in April, the New York Giant spoke with the media about the incident that left him with a wounded buttocks and Simmons dead.
"I don't want to go into details," Ballentine said when asked what happened on that night. "It was a tragic event. I lost my best friend because of it and I don't think it was anything that I had to do with it. I just happened to be there."
On April 28, the two Ichabods were shot outside of a party near the Washburn University campus. Topeka Police recently charged 18-year-old Francisco Mendez with first-degree murder, attempted first-degree murder and five counts of aggravated robbery for shooting Simmons and Ballentine.
"I was glad because a lot of people were looking for answers from me that I didn't really have," Ballentine said of TPD charging Mendez. "So I'm glad that somebody else could kind of take that away from me and give the family and everyone else a little bit of closure."
While Ballentine said he is 100% recovered from his physical injuries, he added there have been "highs and lows" when trying to cope with the situation mentally. He said he thinks about the shooting every day and has seen a team therapist to continue working through it.
But while the gap left by losing a best friend has yet to be filled, the Shawnee Heights alumnus is trying to still move forward and focus on being an NFL player.
"We have goals to accomplish here," Ballentine said. "I just can't keep myself in that place. Earlier on, I was a little paranoid. But now that I'm out here in New York, I've got a lot of support from the organization and a lot of other people too."
And the support Simmons gave him for so long still resonates. It's given him a goal to not just achieve for himself, but for his best friend and former teammate.
"I think he helped me get here every step of the way," Ballentine said of Simmons. "When I was on the field by myself, he would come out there and join me, and I think I'm kind of doing it for both of us. I know if he was here now, he would love to see where I'm at and how I'm doing.
"So, like I said, I spent the most time with him. I was his best friend, so I'm just going to try to keep him in my heart. But at the same time, try to strive for the goals of the team and also my own personal goals, and just do my best."