Ocoee High School football standout — and University of Louisville signee — Dexter Rentz Jr. was shot and killed in Orlando Saturday, April 25.
Throughout his life, Dexter Rentz Jr. had big dreams.
The Ocoee High School senior had dedicated his life to football — and in the process made a name for himself at the school and in the community.
His talent on the field drew everyone’s eyes — including the staff at the University of Louisville, where he was supposed to continue his football dream in the fall. Then, the unthinkable happened, and a community that loved him found itself in mourning.
Orlando Police Department officers responded to shots fired at 11:20 p.m. Saturday, April 25, in the area of Elese Street and Deerock Drive in the Carver Shores neighborhood.
When officers arrived, two vehicles were seen leaving — one heading eastbound on Raleigh Street toward Columbia Street and the other going westbound.
“Officers split up, and contact was made with one of the vehicles at Mable Butler (Avenue) and Columbia (Street) — which is right up the road,” OPD Sgt. Joe Capece said during a press conference Sunday, April 26. “Inside that vehicle was a victim suffering from a gunshot wound.
“Those officers provided first aid — fire department met them there — and that victim was transported to Orlando Regional Medical Center, where he was pronounced deceased,” he said. “That victim was 18-year-old Dexter Rentz (Jr.).”
The other vehicle, which was heading west, was found to have not been a part of the incident, Capece said.
Three others who were in the vehicle with Rentz were also injured in the shooting. Two are dealing with non-life-threatening injuries. The fourth is in serious condition but is expected to survive.
Given the early evidence, OPD does not believe the shooting to be random — though it is not known who the target was at this time, Capece said.
A COMMUNITY IN MOURNING
News of Rentz’s death made the rounds through social media quickly. Coaches, players, fans and family took to Facebook and Twitter to praise Rentz’s hardworking nature and passion for those things he loved.
“I got the phone call today about some sad news about the loss of one of my (nine) guys that have signed on to play college football,” said Ocoee assistant coach Henry Anderson in a Facebook post early Sunday morning. “Not only (have) I lost a good kid but lost a brother.”
As the day got longer, Ocoee head coach Aaron Sheppard did his best to grapple with the news, but no matter how hard he tried it just never happened, he said.
“It’s borderline unbelievable — this is something you don’t plan for or expect,” Sheppard said. “It’s something you try to guard your kids from and you talk to them, but when an innocent person gets caught up in something that, it’s a tough deal. A loss like that? He was the heart and soul of the team.”
Ocoee Athletic Director Bill Alderman said Sunday afternoon he already had heard from a number of people in the Ocoee High community asking about Rentz. The soon-to-be Ocoee graduate was a popular guy at the school, he said.
“When Dexter entered any room at Ocoee High School, it lit up — his smile, his charisma — and everybody knew who he was,” Alderman said. “He came so far in life and had done so many things. Everybody is hurt.”
Meanwhile, for some, finding the right words was almost impossible. For others, such as Ocoee teammate Lovie Jenkins — who also signed on to play at Louisville — it was about keeping it simple.
“Forever I gotcha brotha,” Jenkins said in a tweet.
The news spread outward, grabbing the attention of national sports figures, including basketball legend Shaquille O’Neal, who told ESPN that he would be covering all funeral expenses for the family.
“He was on his way, he really was,” O’Neal told ESPN. “I don’t know what it feels like to lose a son, but I know what it feels like to lose someone.”
A TRUE STUDENT-ATHLETE
No one worked harder at everything they did in life quite like Rentz.
As a sophomore, he picked up a state-record five interceptions in a win against West Port, despite the fact he didn’t normally play defensive back. He was only in to fill a spot left open because of injury.
From there, Rentz’s stock rose, and it’s all because he put in the work, Sheppard said.
“He literally prepared himself every day,” Sheppard said. “He gained 25 pounds from one year to the next to make sure he was recruitable. He did everything possible to clean himself up to make sure he was ready to go.”
When asked what he thought separated him from others during an interview with the Observer at the start of the 2019 football season, Rentz gave an honest opinion that reflected Sheppard’s assessment.
“What makes me such a talented football player is the work that I put in when no one else is watching,” Rentz said in August 2019. “I go home and do a few pushups, lift a little weight — I do the extra.”
By his senior season, Rentz had racked up both stats and more than 20 scholarship offers from Division I programs before ultimately choosing Louisville.
Rentz’s hard-nosed determination to better himself didn’t just garner him praise from colleges — it’s also the thing his fellow teammates remember about him the most, said Ocoee senior Nick Wright, who was the team’s starting quarterback.
“He was a brother, that’s really all he was,” Wright said. “The true definition of someone who took you in and made you feel at home at all times.”