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‘I pray for change’: Jalen Hurts and the Eagles offer sympathy for teenagers involved in Roxborough shooting

PHILADELPHIA — Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts was at “a loss of words” upon hearing about the shooting at Roxborough High School on Tuesday, which left four teenagers wounded and one 14-year-old boy dead. The shooting occurred at the conclusion of a football scrimmage involving three local high schools.

Hurts became emotional while discussing his reaction to the shooting Wednesday afternoon from the team’s headquarters at the NovaCare Complex.

“It’s very sad,” Hurts said. “Kids are doing what they love in a place where it’s supposed to be safe, where we say, ‘Go chase your dreams.’ They’re out there playing football, and they don’t make it home. It’s just very unfortunate. I’m praying for the families. I pray for change.”

Earlier in the month, Hurts visited Penn Medicine’s trauma team to educate himself about the group’s responsibilities in caring for victims of gun violence. Since he arrived to Philadelphia as a second-round pick in the 2020 draft, Hurts has made multiple efforts to stay involved with social justice issues across the city.

Other players were left shaken from the news. The 14-year-old’s death marked the 23rd shooting death of a child this year in Philadelphia. Following the incident, multiple players posted their thoughts on Twitter, including wide receiver A.J. Brown, and team captains Lane Johnson and Darius Slay.

Thirteen-year veteran defensive end Brandon Graham, Philadelphia’s longest-tenured athlete, offered a lengthy response to the Roxborough shooting.

“It sucks when you’re trying to get away from all of the violence by doing something productive with yourself; these are kids at a football game,” Graham said. “I’m thinking, ‘Ain’t no way somebody is just going to run up on me.’ Those kids probably had their guard down; I know how it is now with social media and knowing where others are in real time. At the end of the day, the penalty needs to be higher for all these people making bad decisions without second-guessing their actions. People think they can beat the system.

“There’s a lot of hurt in this world. A lot of people can’t control their emotions, and killing someone might be their No. 1 choice because they don’t have anything else to live for other than violence. But this is hitting too close to home.

“Kids escape violence by finding an outlet through sports. Football is supposed to be a brotherhood, a safe space. That was extremely tragic for this city. And until you put more money in the areas that are struggling, it’s only going to get worse.”

Graham is part of the team’s social justice leadership council, which focuses on providing additional resources to related groups across Philadelphia. Other council members include running back Miles Sanders, tight end Dallas Goedert, linebacker Shaun Bradley, and defensive backs Avonte Maddox and K’Von Wallace, along with team executives and owner Jeffrey Lurie.

At the beginning of the year, the Eagles launched an anti-gun violence campaign called End Philly Gun Violence. Through the multilayered initiative, the Eagles partnered with 32 nonprofits that specialize in social justice work and awarded them with more than $316,600 in grants.

“It’s ... terrible,” Johnson said of the shooting. “We’re at an age now where people are scared to get embarrassed, so they grab guns instead of finding a way to solve their issue and be useful to society. You hate to see it for the younger children across the city. My heart breaks for them.

“Sports should offer a great outlet for us to compete. You can find out a lot about a person and their character through competing. Having that bond with those different teammates is what it’s all about. For that young boy to have that taken away from him, it’s heartbreaking.”

©2022 The Philadelphia Inquirer. Visit inquirer.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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This story was originally published September 28, 2022 7:17 PM.

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