DETROIT — Demarius Reed played prep football at Chicago’s Simeon Academy, carefully avoiding any run-ins with the gangs on the city’s South Side.
He left his hometown to play ball at Eastern Michigan, where he was a Communication, Media and Theater arts major. But the 20-year-old receiver dreamed of playing professional football before he was found shot to death Friday in what police believe was a robbery.
Joe L. Reed said he found irony in the tragedy of his grandson’s slaying: Demarius was able to survive the dangerous streets of Chicago only to become a victim in an off-campus apartment building in the perceived safety of a university community.
“He was an outgoing, beautiful kid. He wasn’t associated with no gang or anything,” Joe L. Reed said. “I would say, ‘Hey man. Don’t go outside.’ I wouldn’t let him associate with anybody over there.”
Over there, he said, is the area near Simeon. Many young people, including prominent athletes, don’t make it out.
Prep basketball standout Benji Wilson was shot to death in 1984 after bumping into two gang members near Simeon. In 2002, Englewood High School basketball star and honor student Maurice Davis was shot to death outside that South Side school after an earlier confrontation with other teens.
On Friday, hours after Reed’s family learned of his slaying, Joe L. Reed reflected on grandson’s gridiron success in high school and most recently at Eastern Michigan, located about 35 miles southwest of Detroit in Ypsilanti.
The NFL often was on Demarius’ mind.
“I told him ‘Man, you have to stay in that gym,'” Joe L. Reed told The Associated Press in a telephone interview from Chicago. “He would say ‘I’m good enough.’ He loved the game.”
The elder Reed did have reservations about his grandson moving into an off-campus apartment.
“He was on scholarship,” he said. “He could have stayed on-campus.”
Demarius’ roommate found his body about 7:15 a.m. Reed had been shot multiple times and some of his personal items were missing, Ypsilanti police said in a release.
No arrests were made as of late Friday afternoon.
“The circumstances involving his death remain under investigation at this time by the Ypsilanti Police Department,” school president Susan Martin said. “Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends, and his teammates on the football team.”
She said Eastern Michigan public safety officials were in close contact with Ypsilanti police. Grief counselors met Friday with Reed’s teammates, other students and faculty. An afternoon forum was scheduled at the Student Center Auditorium to discuss the case with the campus community.
A Saturday home game against Ohio will be played as scheduled.
The 5-foot-10, 161-pound Reed played in six games this season, catching 15 passes for 181 yards and a touchdown. He made 18 receptions for 171 yards and scored a touchdown in nine games last season.
Heather Lyke, vice president and athletic director at the school, said Eastern Michigan had suffered “an unbelievable loss.”
“Demarius was an influential leader who thrived in the classroom and on the field,” she said. “Everyone gravitated to him and often described him as the ‘life of the locker room.'”
Current football players at Simeon — perhaps best known as the high school of NBA star Derrick Rose of the Chicago Bulls — had little to say as they arrived for Friday afternoon’s game against Foreman High School.
Before the game, they gathered around his jersey, which was hung on a fence near the end zone. They said a prayer and dedicated the game to him.
Others expressed sympathy for Reed’s family and his younger brother, who now plays for Simeon.
“You’re thinking about his family,” Halethia Jones, a parent of a Simeon football player, told WLS-TV. “I’m thinking especially about his younger brother, who is my son’s friend. And I know his family’s hurt, and we just want to send our prayers and condolences out to them.”