Authorities said Thursday that Arkansas State junior defensive lineman Markel Owens was one of two men shot to death during a home invasion robbery in Jackson, Tenn., that also left his mother wounded.
Jerry Scott, the school's sports information director, said Owens was one of the victims and called it "a sad day" for the Red Wolves.
"We're deeply saddened and our utmost sympathies go out to his family, teammates and classmates," Arkansas State athletic director Terry Mohajir said in a statement. "Please join me in prayer for so many people who are being impacted by the loss of Markel."
Jackson police said Owens, 21, and Johnny Shivers, 36, were fatally shot during the robbery at a duplex on Wednesday night. Shivers died at the scene. Owens was transported to Jackson-Madison County General Hospital and pronounced dead.
A 37-year-old woman, who was Shivers' wife and Owens' mother, was also shot. She was treated and released from Jackson-Madison County General Hospital. Her name was not immediately released, but Owen's mother is listed as Chermaine Owens in the Arkansas State media guide.
Investigators say Shivers was arriving home when he was rushed by two masked men and forced inside the apartment. The suspects demanded money and a struggle began. Owens and his mother were inside the apartment at the time.
During the struggle, Owens helped Shivers and began fighting one of the men, police said. Shivers and Owens were both shot during the struggle. One of the gunmen then shot the woman. The robbers got away with a large amount of cash.
Investigators believe Shivers was specifically targeted. Police also discovered a large amount of marijuana inside the apartment. While the motive remains under investigation, police believe the robbers had prior knowledge of the drugs and/or cash inside the apartment.
Owens played in 11 games for the Red Wolves last season, helping Arkansas State (8-5) to at least a share of its third straight Sun Belt Conference title and a second straight win in the GoDaddy Bowl.
The 6-foot-2, 303-pound native of Jackson, Tenn., would have been a senior next season.
Former North Carolina offensive coordinator Blake Anderson was named the new head coach of the Red Wolves last month, replacing Bryan Harsin, who left to become the head coach at Boise State. Anderson is the Red Wolves' fifth head coach in as many seasons.
"Markel was a part of our Red Wolves family, and it is obvious he was a well-liked and respected member of our team who will be missed," Anderson said. "We are doing everything possible to comfort his teammates, and we extend our compassion to his family during this difficult time."