Rookie Giants CB playing for himself, slain friend

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- New York Giants cornerback Corey Ballentine talked Sunday for the first time publicly about the "tragic event" that took the life of his best friend hours after he was drafted and admitted it's something he still thinks about every day.

Dwane Simmons was murdered and Ballentine was shot in the backside as they walked home from a party in late April. Ballentine has since recovered fully physically and claims to be in a good place mentally with help from a therapist.

"I don't want to go into detail but just a tragic accident. Not an accident but just a tragic event. I lost my best friend because of it," a composed Ballentine said. "I don't think it was anything I had to do with it. I just happened to be there. Nothing that I could control.

"To this day, I just kind of try not to think about it too much because there is nothing I can do at this point. I know the police are doing the best to make some peace with the families and bring justice to the families as well."

Ballentine has contemplated getting a tattoo -- he currently doesn't have any -- commemorating his late friend and former teammate at Washburn University.

That's not all he has in mind to honor Simmons.

"Play my best," Ballentine said. "I know he wouldn't want me sulking and being down and whatnot. So I'm just going to do my best to make this team and pitch in and try to win a Super Bowl with this team by giving my best effort."

It's almost as if the sixth-round pick is playing for both himself and Simmons.

"Yeah, because I think he helped me get here every step of the way," Ballentine said. "When I was on the field by myself he would come out there and join me. I feel like I'm kind of doing it for both of us. I know if he was here now, he would love to see where I'm at and how I'm doing and want to visit and all that stuff. Like I said, I spent the most time with him, he was my best friend. So I'm just going to keep him in my heart but at the same time strive for the goals of the team and my personal goals and do my best."

Police made an arrest and charged Francisco Alejandro Mendez, 18, earlier this month. He faces seven felony counts, including murder in the first degree, and was also charged with premeditation, attempted murder in the first degree and five counts of aggravated robbery, according to the Shawnee County (Kansas) District Attorney's office.

This was a relief to Ballentine.

"I was glad because a lot of people were looking for answers from me that I didn't really have," he said. "I'm glad that somebody kind of could take that away from me and give the family and everyone else a little bit of closure. It's something I couldn't really provide because I don't know all the details myself. I just happened to be there. It definitely made a good feeling go through my body."

Ballentine said it took him a little while to get his mind back on football after the shooting. There remains a gap in his life that he has not yet been able to fill.

But he also praised the Giants for helping him through the process. They had members of the organization attend the funeral, provided him extra time at home in the spring when necessary, and the coaches were in constant contact even when he wasn't at the facility.

The Giants have also provided Ballentine with all the necessary resources, including meeting with psychiatrists and therapists.

"I think about it every day," Ballentine said. "It's hard. Earlier on, I was a little paranoid, but now that I'm out here in New York, I've got a lot of support from the organization.",

He later added: "I'll always have it in my heart but I'm moving forward with my life."

Ballentine was able to return to practice in the spring. He thinks he's finally caught up after a late start. Ballentine has spent most of the early part of training camp with the third-team defense. He had an interception returned for a touchdown in Saturday's practice.

"I feel I'm finally starting to get somewhere," Ballentine said.