As the New England Patriots opened their voluntary offseason workout program on Monday, linebacker Anfernee Jennings opted the stay away.
The 25-year-old instead delayed his arrival to support his hometown in light of a recent mass shooting, per ESPN’s Mike Reiss. Jennings was born and grew up in Dadeville, Alabama, where a massacre at a birthday party on Saturday left four dead and 28 injured.
The four victims were aged 17 to 23, with at least two attending the local high school Jennings also went to.
“It’s still fresh. It hasn’t sunk in that this is really happening. It’s a close-knitted community, people know everybody. ‘Your kids are our kids’ type of community,” Amy Jackson, whose cousin was killed, told The Independent. “And it’s just hard to believe that something like that, that we normally see on TV ... is our reality.”
Dadeville has a population of around 3,000. According to the Gun Violence Archive, the mass shooting in the town was the 159th of its kind so far in 2023. April 15 was the 105th day of the year.
Jennings was a standout defensive end and tight end at Dadeville High School, and named first-team All-State in 2013 and 2014. He also won the Class 4A Lineman of the Year Award as a senior in 2014.
He left for the University of Alabama in 2015, and eventually was selected by the Patriots in the third round of the 2020 NFL Draft. Jennings has since appeared in 30 games for the organization and is now entering his fourth season as a pro.