Injured Denver Broncos wide receiver Kenny McKinley has died. The cause of death was determined to be a self-inflicted gunshot wound, according to the Los Angeles Times.
McKinley was only 23 years old and was a second-year player for the Broncos. His head coach, Josh McDaniels, said McKinley’s behavior left “nothing that would alarm us to anything like this.” McKinley was on injured reserve after hurting his knee in August and requiring surgery for the second time in eight months. Even though he hasn’t been playing, teammates have said that McKinley was jovial over the past few weeks and his normal, joking self.
Other athletes have died too young and before their times, some in the prime of their careers like McKinley. Popular athletes have died while playing for Missouri professional sports teams such as Derrick Thomas, Joe Delaney, and Josh Hancock.
Derrick Thomas died several months after his debilitating car accident that left him paralyzed in January of 2000. He died less than a month later in the hospital at the age of 33. Thomas was voted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame posthumously in 2009 as one of the most fearsome quarterbacks in his generation.
Derrick Thomas was one of the most celebrated sack artists in the history of the game. His record of seven sacks in one game and led the team with 20 in one year. Thomas had more sacks than anyone else in the 1990s. During his time on the team, the Kansas City Chiefs enjoyed some of the best won-loss records in franchise history.
Joe Delaney was just started his career as Kansas City’s running back when he gave his life to try to save three boys from drowning. Even though he couldn’t swim, the 24 year-old jumped into a flooded lake to try to save the struggling kids in his hometown of Louisiana, according to Sports Illustrated.
Delaney left behind three young children who have since grown and have children of their own. A charity was set up to help inner city kids get free swimming lessons. Delaney’s name and number are on the Chiefs Ring of Honor in Arrowhead Stadium.
Josh Hancock, age 29, was killed in a car accident in St. Louis while he was a star relief pitcher for the World Series Champion Cardinals. NBC Sports reported that his blood alcohol level was twice the legal limit in Missouri when he was killed in 2007.
Hancock’s rented Ford SUV struck the back of a tow truck pulled over on the side of Interstate 64; he was dead within seconds. Hancock was instrumental in the Cardinals’ 2006 World Series triumph. Following the accident, Cardinals officials banned alcohol in the locker room after games.
McKinley’s tragic death has shocked his teammates, as does any death of someone who is an integral part of a team. The Denver Broncos could not have used McKinley’s services this year as he was injured, but the hearts of the men he meant the most to, and his young son, will miss McKinley forever.
The Los Angeles Times, the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Sports Illustrated, and NBC Sports contributed information for this article.