AVON PARK - A couple of weeks ago, former Avon Park football star Dwayne Terrance Council Jr. walked up to Avon Park High School's football coach and told him he thought the coach and his players were doing a job this year.
"He always had something positive to say, and I really appreciated that," remembered coach Wade Jackson.
Jackson and many others were shocked when they heard that Council, the father of a young girl and the son of a popular football and track coach, was found with gunshot wounds Saturday at the 200 block of State Street in Avon Park and was later pronounced dead at a hospital.
While authorities said Sunday they were working the case as a "potential homicide," Highlands County Chief Deputy Mark Schrader said Monday that investigators now consider the death a homicide and detectives are following all leads.
Council's death is the third homicide in Highlands County this year. The other two were in Sebring.
People who knew Council offered no reason as to why someone would harm or kill him. They all had positive things to say about the 21-year-old.
Jackson said he had known Council for most of his life and his death was "like losing a son."
"He was a kid with a great attitude," Jackson said. "He was a hard worker who was a joy to be around. I just can't say enough good things about him."
Andy Bonjokian, who was Council's coach during his four years at Avon Park High School, echoed Jackson.
"This guy just had a million dollar smile," Bonjokian said. "He was the kind of person everyone would want to be around."
Bonjokian said Council was a team player rather than someone just out for his own glory.
"He was a great leader on the field, but he was an even greater team -mate," Bonjokian said.
Council was a linebacker primarily, Bonjokian said. "He was an overachiever at that position. He might have only weighed 170 pounds, but he played like he was 230 pounds."
Mort Jackson, the athletic director at Avon Park High School, said Council was a "great kid" and recalled that at the end of the football season this year Council gave his coaches a hug.
Heather M. Barnes, who knew Council and his family for many years, said Council could always make people laugh. She said he came from a great family.
After high school, Council was recruited as a football player for Evangel University in Missouri. Brenton Illum, the head coach who recruited Council, said Council belonged to the team for a year before leaving the university. He called him "an extremely charismatic kid" with an "easy-going personality."
Wade Jackson said that Council has been working for Avon Park Youth Academy and was interested in attending a law enforcement academy and becoming a law enforcement officer.
He also noted that Council was caring for his baby daughter.
"He was taking care of his responsibilities like he should have," Wade Jackson said.
Anyone with information on the shooting should contact Highlands County Detective Hank Smith at (863) 381-2814 or (863) 402-7250. Anyone with information who wants to remain anonymous and be eligible for a cash reward is asked to call Heartland Crime Stoppers at (800) 226-TIPS (8477), contact Heartland Crimestoppers on the Internet at www.heartlandcrimestoppers.com.