Washburn coach: "It's hard to wrap your mind around it"

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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - Hours after celebrating his program's highest draft pick ever, Washburn University football coach Craig Schurig was handed the news one of his players was killed in a shooting.

Washburn University football coach Craig Schurig shares memories of player Dwane Simmons, following Simmons' death Sunday, April 28, 2019. (WIBW)

"The tragedy - how fast it can happen - it’s hard to wrap your mind around it and understand it," Schurig said Sunday afternoon, moments after a team meeting during which they laughed and grieved the death of junior Dwane Simmons.

"(We remembered) his energy, what he brought every day. It wasn’t like a roller coaster energy - he was always on the uptick," Schurig said. "(He was) really a loved person on campus as well as in the athletic program. Just a guy that inspired people with how he attacked, really, life and he never had a bad day."

Simmons was killed early Sunday morning in a shooting at SW 13th and Lane. Teammate Corey Ballentine, who was drafted Saturday by the New York Giants, was injured and is expected to make a full recovery. Topeka Police have not said what led to the shooting, and have not released information on any potential suspects.

"A young man with a great future is dead, and that’s a tragedy, and it hurts. The Washburn community hurts. It should hurt the whole community because this is a young guy that had the world at his hands, living a dream playing college football, and when that happens everybody hurts," Schurig said. "We want to reach out and help their family as much as we can."

Schurig said he was able to speak with Ballentine, whom he said is doing fine physically. However, he said Ballentine and Simmons were close friends, so he wants to be sure Ballentine feels support as he grieves.

The concern extends to the entire Washburn football family. Schurig said he felt it was important to bring the team together Sunday so they could support each other.

The stories shared, Schurig said, ranged from Simmons' resilience in coming back from two ACL injuries, to his sense of humor.

"He could have been a comedian," Schurig said. "It was uplifting stories, and inspired fond inspiring things that he did, and that’s the biggest thing that came out of the meeting is that hopefully we can show some of the fire that he had and show how we attack life not just football."

Schurig added that young people often feel "unbreakable" until something like this happens, yet they are resilient in the face of tragedy, and he found himself being inspired by them as they spoke Sunday afternoon.

"We’re just trying to wrap ourselves around the spirit and the life that Dwane lived, and hopefully we can have a little bit of that in us and approach each day like he did," he said.