News of an NFL player found dead is not new in Denver. But the latest NFL player found dead was not killed by a drive by or cardiac arrest. The NFL player found dead in this case was Denver Broncos receiver Kenny McKinley, by an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound. Until now, Kenny McKinley may not have been a well-known name, except by some Broncos fans and by his alma mater of South Carolina. However, Kenny McKinley is now just another statistic, as the newest NFL player found dead.
The Denver Broncos are used to mourning the loss of one of their own. On New Year’s Day 2007, cornerback Darrent Williams was killed in a drive-by, with running back Damien Nash collapsing from cardiac arrest two months later. The Broncos had gone three years without another player death, but that streak was shattered yesterday.
News about an NFL player found dead broke early last night from the Denver Post. They wrote that 23-year-old Kenny McKinley was discovered dead at 3:25 p.m. mountain time yesterday. It was not officially confirmed to be a suicide, but it is being treated as such for the moment.
With another NFL player found dead, the questions will arise as to why it happened, and why McKinley would kill himself. Suicide has become a recurring issue in the NFL, as some players who suffer severe trauma and brain damage have resorted to it. It is also an issue in college football, after Penn’s Owen Thomas killed himself in April.
McKinley was on the injured reserve list, but it was due to a knee injury. He had season-ending surgery in August, after a similar injury ended his rookie season last year. He only played eight games in his career, mostly on special teams, after setting receiving records in South Carolina.
Despite his short career, Kenny McKinley is still labeled an NFL player found dead. No matter how limited one’s playing time is, one remains a professional athlete. As such, more news is made, and more questions are raised when a player is alleged to have killed himself.
Just a week earlier, McKinley was given a hero’s welcome when he returned to South Carolina to watch the Gamecocks defeat Georgia. Coach Steve Spurrier claimed that he was “in good spirits” that day, furthering the mystery of what caused such a sudden shift.
As with every NFL player found dead lately, there are more questions and uncertainty than there are real answers. The loss of Kenny McKinley has the Broncos going through the motions of loss once again, and leaves the NFL community wondering what went wrong with him — and whether the game played a part in it.
Denver Post- “Broncos’ wide receiver Kenny McKinley dead at 23”
Washington Post- “Denver Broncos wide receiver Kenny McKinley dies in apparent suicide”