GARY — NFL player and former Gary football player Lonnie Johnson Jr., said he will pay for the funeral of the 14-year-old football player who drowned in a high school pool last week.

“I just wanted to help out any way I could,” Johnson said in a news interview posted on social media.

Johnson, a West Side graduate, played college football at Kentucky before being picked in the second round of this year's NFL draft by the Houston Texans.

On the evening of Sept. 11, Curtis Walton was found unresponsive at the bottom of a Calumet High School pool. He died at a hospital early on Sept. 12, coroners records said.

Johnson said he saw the news of Walton's death on social media and looked into it when he saw the teen was from Gary.

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“I started reading it, looked into and talked to these guys and just tried to put together all the pieces to the puzzle,” Johnson said. “And then got in touch with his family and talked to them.”

Johnson said he spoke with Walton's mother, who was thankful for Johnson's outreach.

“She's very strong, I could hear it in her voice,” Johnson said. “She's dealing with it, you know, that's her son. I know how a parent is when they lose a child.”

Johnson said he wants to pay homage to his hometown and those who live there.

“That's my goal, to bring life back to the city and give back to my city, so that's a part of me doing what I did,” Johnson said.

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Night Crime/Breaking News Reporter

Anna Ortiz is the breaking news/crime reporter for The Times, covering crime, politics, courts, investigative news and more. She is a Region native and graduate of Ball State University with a major in journalism and minor in anthropology.