ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – A former college football player who was in Albuquerque playing for the Duke City Gladiators is one of the city’s latest murder victims. Martesse Patterson, 26, was shot to death earlier this month. His team is now speaking out.

Patterson played for the Gladiators this past season and the team says the free agent was looking forward to staying here. Matt Avila says his friendship with Patterson started the moment he picked him up from the airport. He describes the offensive lineman, who stood around 6’5″ as a big teddy bear.

“I still remember to this day, picking him up from the airport,” said Avila, director of Public Affairs for the Gladiators. “He was just a good young man, but what he gave to the team and the community was big leadership. He was a phenomenal player. Off the field, he was another family member.”

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Patterson played college football for Purdue and Tuskegee before coming to the city this past spring as the newest player for the Duke City Gladiators. Police identified him on Monday as the victim of a shooting on Nov. 7 near Central and Pennsylvania.

“We were very shocked. We didn’t know who to contact at first,” said Avila, continuing to add they were afraid to reach out to Patterson’s mom if the rumors they heard turned out not to be true. When it was confirmed, he says Patterson’s mom called to let them know.

According to the Albuquerque Police Department, Patterson was shot and killed outside of a building just before 1 a.m. Another person was taken to the hospital, and there’s no information yet if a suspect has been identified. Avila says it’s an enormous loss to the Gladiators and the greater metro.

“He embedded himself into the community right away because we were doing a lot of charity events and he was big on it, especially bullying rallies,” said Avila. “He was big on anti-bullying.”

The Gladiators say Patterson was a “free agent” following the season. However, the Ohio-native made plans to stay in Albuquerque. As arrangements are made, Avila says they’ve been in touch with Patterson’s family and hope to support in any way they can.

“Martesse was one of the boys who chose to stay in Albuquerque. We had intentions of bringing him back to play with the Gladiators and he chose to stay here, chose to live here,” said Avila. “His mom would say he’s a big boy, but he was her baby boy.”

The Duke City Gladiators hope to work with APD for a future gun buyback program to raise awareness, offering season tickets in honor of Patterson’s memory. The Gladiators say memorial arrangements are still in the works but will likely happen in early December.