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McKendree University student found dead in yard; police investigating

LEBANON, Ill. - Police are investigating the sudden death of a McKendree University student and volleyball player who grew up in St. Charles County.

Lebanon, Illinois police said Kirk Jackson II was found unresponsive around 8 a.m. Saturday, January 19 off campus on the 100 block of Perryman Street. Police said there was no indication of foul play but the incident remains under investigation.

The university notified students, faculty, and staff via campus email.

Nickie Sanlin, Head Volleyball Coach at McKendree University, said she and the team are still processing the loss.

"I wish I could have seen where that talent could have went," she said.

Sanlin said she first met the O’Fallon, Missouri native when he was on the volleyball team at Fort Zumwalt West High School. When she became the coach at McKendree, she knew she wanted Jackson to come play for her.

"You're not just recruiting the athlete, you're recruiting the person as well," she said. "You want him in your program."

Sanlin said Jackson played middle backer and it was his job to stop the ball from crossing the net. She said Jackson was very talented and loved by his teammates.

After taking a backseat as a red shirt freshman, Sanlin was impressed with Jackson's dedication to his craft when he showed up sophomore year stronger, 20 pounds heavier and ready to work.

"You expect your athletes to go home and work, but the fact that you see such a physical transformation, and once you get them in the gym, it's an on-court transformation that, I knew he meant business," she said.

Sanlin said she visited with Jackson's family Monday. Jackson's mother, Roni, shared with Sanlin just how much she meant to her son.

"She said to me, 'I knew from day one he was coming to McKendree when he hugged you, and he didn't hug anyone,'" she said.

Roni Jackson said her son was very shy but at 6'7" he was always the center of attention. He loved anime and comic book movies. Spider-Man was his favorite superhero.

Jackson was studying accounting and wanted to work for a small accounting firm. He was close with his family, especially his older sister, who also played volleyball.

Tuesday would have been Jackson's 20th birthday.

In a statement, Roni Jackson told Fox 2:

"(Kirk) will be missed immensely and we are heartbroken to not have any answers as to what happened and why this has happened.”

Funeral arrangements have not yet been finalized.

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