ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO/WQRF) – High School football players deal with adversity from time to time…tough losses, injuries, but one football player currently on the Rockford East E-Rabs’ varsity team, found himself a couple years ago in the middle of one of the darkest nights in Rockford’s history. He’s Printess Wynn.
“I like football. It’s a getaway for me,” said Wynn. “It just became something, you know, like something you get addicted to, and I just put my love in the sport.”
Wynn is a junior cornerback and kick returner for the E-Rabs.
He is the kind of player a coach like East’s Gary Griffin can appreciate.
“A kid like Printess who is about as good of a kid as you’re going to get character-wise, doesn’t miss anything anything (like practices and workouts), works his tail end off every chance. He’s going to give you 110 percent.”
Less than two years ago, this teenager was in the middle of a very dark moment.
Wynn was in Don Carter Lanes on East State Street December 26, 2020, the night after Christmas. That’s when a shooter entered the establishment with a gun and started firing. Three people died, three were injured. Wynn was one of the three who were injured.
How often do you think about that night?
“I think about that night heavily, a lot,” said Wynn.
Do you have nightmares?
The casualties that night at Don Carter Lanes would have been much worse if not for the fact it was during the middle of COVID, and bowlers weren’t allowed on the lanes.
So, what was Wynn doing at the bowling alley that night?
“It was me and my friend Camajay (Casson), and we were there just getting food. It was his last day out here, because he didn’t live out here at that time, so we just wanted to enjoy the night.”
“I was waiting on my mom to come get me, and then he just, well not he, I just saw a gun figure in the side of my vision, and then I just got shot. Then I got back up and me and Camajay ran out.”
The bullet that entered Wynn’s face is still lodged inside of him.
“It’s right here,” said Wynn pointing to his right jaw. “And I got shot right here,” pointing just upper his upper lip on the left side of his face. “Then it traveled right here,” Wynn said again, pointing above his right jaw. “Then they said they couldn’t take it out because it was too close to like my temple at the time, but I don’t know if it’s moved since then.”
Can you feel it inside of you?
What does it feel like?
“It feels like a real bad ache, like when I yawn or open my jaw. It just feels like an ache.”
Wynn did undergo some counseling after the shooting, but perhaps the biggest reason he’s been able to pull through that nightmare night is the support system he has at East High School from his teammates, coaches and other staff at the school.
“We were just there for him,” said East running back and close friend Javius Catlin. “We were just there for him to help pick him up.”
“He just gets through it every day,” Griffin said. “But I think a lot of it has to do with us keeping him busy.”
What words of advice and comfort did Griffin and the other coaches have for Wynn in the days following the shootings?
“We just talk about, people care about him. The team cares about him,” said Griffin. “The coaches care about him. His teachers care about him. The school cares about him.”
How important was it for you to play football and play sports again?
“It was really big,” said Wynn.
Did being around teammates and coaches help you deal with the whole thing?
“Yes. Every time something bad happens to me, coach Griff will come. Wherever I’m at he’ll come. Some more coaches come. They’re just very positive.”
“I think a lot of our kids are resilient, but that kid’s special,” said Griffin. “Obviously when you go through the things he’s gone through.” Nine months after that shooting Wynn’s family home burned down, another major blow for a teenager.
Do you feel like you were lucky to survive that night at the bowling alley?
“Yeah. I feel like I was lucky,” said Wynn. “I feel like God gave me another opportunity.”