FORT WAYNE, Ind. (FORT WAYNE'S NBC) - North Side quarterback Duce Taylor plays football with a purpose and with another person in mind.
Duce Taylor's cousin and best friend, Nick Scroggins, was shot and killed on June 21, 2016, near the corner of Lillie St. and E. Fairfax Ave. He was 14.
"They just started shooting at him. You can see his shoe was left right here, but his body was down there. You could tell he was trying to run," Duce said.
Duce stood outside where the incident happened. There's snow on the ground now but the memories kept pouring in.
"It was just one of those moments where it felt like the world just came to shambles," Duce said.
Antoine Taylor, Duce's father, says their family woke up from the gunshots but went back to sleep.
"We got a call shortly after that Nick was shot," Antoine said.
Duce explains he's always been the curious type and that day was no different: before riding his bike to football camp that morning, he pedaled past the scene.
"I saw basically everything. I saw the blood there, the shell casings from the gun," Duce said.
"When he walked around the corner to Nick's house and Nick wasn't there... I think it became real," Antoine said.
Duce decided it was time to go to camp but it was there where some of the shock wore off and reality set in.
"As I'm sitting there. It kind of hit me like he's never coming back," Duce said.
Nick and Duce were inseparable as kids, clinging to each other since they were toddlers.
The night of the shooting was rare moment the two were apart.
"If I didn't say no, Duce would of been at Nick's house that night," Antoine said.
"Duce said 'If I was there, I think I could of saved him.' That's very wishful thinking and I don't know how to parent through that at times."
Duce works through the grief in his own way, dedicating his football career to Scroggins. Their goal as kids was to play in the NFL together. That success soon became the promise Duce made.
"Seeing him in his casket, it just hit me. I just told him when I was looking at his body that I promise you I'm going to make it and accomplish our dreams," Duce said.
The two shared the dream of playing college football. So, Duce trained for countless hours on the field and the hard work paid off in the form of a piece of paper.
The National Letter of Intent paper represented an opportunity to play D-I football at Morgan State University and a chance to fulfill a dream he made to his childhood best friend.
"I'm taking the next step in the journey and I completed one promise to him that I was going to play college football," Duce said.
"I'm pretty sure he would be proud of me and for what I'm becoming, and that I'm still trying to accomplish what we set as a goal together," Duce said. "It's a lot of emotion pent up, I can definitely feel his spirit still here."
Duce Taylor keeps Nick's spirit alive and will carry on his love for football next fall by playing on Saturdays.