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Slain A-State Player Called "Gentle Giant, Hero"

Jackson, Tennessee Police are looking for a pair of suspects in the shooting deaths of Markel Owens and his stepfather Johnny Shivers.
JONESBORO, AR - Police in Jackson, Tennessee are still looking for two men, who they say killed Markel Owens and his stepfather last night.

Owens' mother was also shot.

According to police, Owens' stepfather was the target and robbery was the motive.

In Jonesboro, Owens is being remembered as a gentle giant who became a hero. 

They have a mantra at Arkansas State University, "protect the family." For Markel Owens, a rising senior, it found some real meaning with some tragic consequences in Jackson late last night. 

Back on campus, Markel is being remembered not only for what he did on the field, but what he did off as well. 

"We were side-by-side, everything we did was together," says fellow player Darius Dunaway. 

You can't get any closer then #93 Darius Dunaway and #94 Markel Owens. A friendship created playing a game they both loved -- and cemented far from it.

"We had a bond like none other, I love him, and that will never be forgotten," Dunaway says. 

Everything changed last night.

According to Jackson (TN) Police in Jackson, two masked men burst into Owens family's home and demanded money.

Owens fought back in a bid to save his mom and younger brother and was shot. He later died.

"Everybody, I mean everybody just liked him and right now, what you are telling me, he's a hero,"  Dunaway says.

Investigators say Owens' stepfather Johnny Shivers was the target -- and a large amount of marijuana was found in the home. 

Dunaway finds all of that befuddling -- because he says Owens never did drugs.

"I don't know what happened, or how it happened, or all that, but I know he wasn't a part of it, I know that for sure," he says.

Other friends on campus say Owens wanted to pursue an NFL career -- but had other plans as well -- including getting his MBA and one day starting his own business.

"You stop and and you look back and you are like, man that was a cool guy, what a good person."

There is very much sadness in the air in Jonesboro. While the investigation continues in Jackson, counselors will be brought in to meet with players and students when they return to campus on Tuesday. 

Statement from Boise State Head Football Coach and former head football coach at Arkansas State, Bryan Harsin:
"It's always a tragic death when a young man with great character like Markel (Owens) passes. Our thoughts and prayers go out to Markel's family and everyone at Arkansas State. For his brothers at state and those he touched, he will be deeply missed."
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