Indianapolis Colts player Edwin Jackson was one of two people killed early Sunday after being struck by a suspected drunken driver along Interstate 70.
According to the Indiana State Police, the crash happened shortly before 4 a.m. Sunday along the westbound lanes of I-70, just west of Holt Road.
Police said Jackson and 54-year-old Jeffrey Monroe of Avon were standing near a stopped vehicle when a black Ford F-150 pickup truck drove onto the emergency shoulder and struck them both.
Shortly after news of his death, the Indianapolis Colts showed their love for the 26-year-old player known to his teammates as "Pound Cake" with the following statement:
“We were heartbroken to hear the news of Edwin Jackson’s passing. Edwin was loved by all in the Colts organization. We admired his outgoing personality, competitive spirit and hard-working mentality. He was well-respected among all with whom he crossed paths, and he will be greatly missed in our locker room and throughout our entire organization. We also understand that another person lost his life in the accident, only adding to our sorrow on this day. We are shocked and saddened by this tragedy, and our thoughts and prayers are with the families of both men during this difficult time.”
Investigators believe that Monroe was a ride-sharing operator who pulled to the side of the road and got out of the car to assist Jackson, 26, who became ill.
"One of the people struck was thrown into the center lane of I-70," Sgt. John Perrine said in a statement. "Shortly after the crash, and before any 911 calls were received, Trooper Ty Mays was driving through the area and noticed a vehicle in front of him make an evasive maneuver to the left."
Perrine said Mays then spotted the crash along the right side of the road and activated his emergency lights.
"As he slowed to stop for the crash he struck the body of the victim in the center lane," Perrine said in a statement. State police did not say which victim was struck.
The driver of the pickup truck, identified as 37-year-old Alex Cabrera Gonsales of Indianapolis, tried to flee the scene on foot.
He was apprehended shortly after on the ramp to Holt Road by Mays, police said.
"It is believed Gonsales was intoxicated and was driving without a license," Perrine said in a statement. "He was transported to the Marion County Jail, the result of the test for intoxication is pending."
Jackson, an inside linebacker originally from Atlanta, was signed by the Colts in January 2016 after signing to the practice squad on Dec. 22, 2015. He previously played for the Arizona Cardinals. He was placed on injured reserve in September 2017.
Jackson's family released a statement late Sunday saying:
The family would like for me to extend thanks and heart felt appreciation for all the calls, prayers and good wishes that have been nonstop from the heartbreaking news.
The family requests privacy during this most trying time and asks for your continued prayers.
Edwin was an amazing young man that filled our lives with joy and pride. He was kind, thoughtful, humble and passionate about football and loved his family.
We ask that all who were blessed to have crossed his path remember him and his amazing smile.
Jackson was a high school football star at Westlake High School and state-championship-finalist wrestler in Atlanta. He attended Georgia Southern University and joined the football team as a walk on. The team's coach and the school's athletics director both released statements on Jackson's death shortly after the news broke.
"To learn of the news of the untimely passing of a former Eagle causes great sadness and hurt," said Georgia Southern's head football coach Chad Lunsford. "Edwin Jackson represented not only Georgia Southern but also how a young man should live his life. He earned everything that he was given and has left this world way too soon. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family, friends, loved ones and teammates. He will be missed."
Athletics director Tom Kleinlein echoed those sentiments saying, "We are heartbroken by the sudden passing of Edwin Jackson. Edwin exemplified the qualities of a Georgia Southern student-athlete and he will be missed dearly. He was a beloved Eagle who had an infectious personality, was hard working and worked for everything he earned. All of Eagle Nation is shocked and saddened right now."
Jackson's former high school coach Sam Covington remembered him as having a "great spirit."
"He was always happy, always laughing always smiling," Covington said. "It wouldn't be Edwin unless he was making everybody else laugh. It's just like watching my own child on TV and then just sitting and smiling and saying, 'Hey, you made it. You're living the dream.'"
Call IndyStar reporter Justin L. Mack at (317) 444-6138 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @justinlmack.