Aaron Dunigan was going to walk across the stage at his high school graduation, attend Southern Illinois University in the fall and pursue his passion for football.
WABC-TV reports Dunigan, 18, was killed Saturday morning while on his way back from prom in Calumet City, Illinois. As Dunigan rode in the passenger seat of the car, the driver lost control and the vehicle crossed the median and collided with a pickup truck.
According to the Chicago Tribune, Dunigan's mother, Katherine Jackson, accepted the deceased teen's diploma at his graduation Wednesday night while clad in his cap and gown.
Local media said Dunigan was popular in school and well-behaved.
The evening was understandably emotional for Jackson as she filled her son's empty place among his classmates.
She told gathered media,
He knows his mom never walked the stage. I'm going to be his legs and he's going to be my wings, and we're going to go up there and get our diploma.
Dunigan and Juan Rivera, a truck driver who was on his way home, were both killed in the incident. Mike Crowter, who rode in the car with Dunigan, was sent to the hospital but is recovering.
The car's driver, David Peden, tested positive for marijuana and has reportedly been charged with reckless homicide with a motor vehicle and DUI causing death.