Arapahoe County Sheriff Grayson Robinson confirmed McKinley's death, and said he was waiting on a field report from investigators before releasing more information this evening.
Robinson said authorities were called by a female friend of McKinley’s who discovered the body after returning from an errand with his child. The sheriff declined to say if authorities found a suicide note.
"It was apparently a suicide, but we're still investigating," he said.
It is very sad that such a young and talented man took his own life. He must of been in a terrible time in his life and was struggling to deal with his demons. This is a very sad day for Broncos Country as they have lost another one of their beloved sons.
"Everyone with the Broncos is shocked and saddened by the loss of Kenny McKinley," President and CEO Pat Bowlen said. "He was part of the Broncos family and will be greatly missed by our organization. My most heartfelt condolences go out to Kenny's family and friends."
"Kenny had a promising future on the football field, but more importantly, he was a great teammate whose smile and personality could light up the room," Head Coach Josh McDaniels said. "This is a tragic loss for our football team, and his family is in all of our thoughts and prayers during this difficult time."
Like Coach McD said Kenny was a guy that always had a smile on his face and seemed to be enjoying being a Bronco.
An NFL source told The Denver Post that McKinley had been in Atlanta visiting family recently but had returned to Denver on Sunday. McKinley is survived by a young son, Keon.
McKinley recently visited Columbia, S.C., where he watched his alma mater play the University of Georgia on Sept. 11. He was announced to the crowd at Williams-Brice Stadium and received a large applause.
"I saw him here. He came to the Georgia game. He seemed in good spirits," South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier told The Charleston (S.C.) Post and Courier Monday night. "He had a great smile, like he always had. I don't understand it, if it happened the way they say. It's hard to comprehend.
"Kenny was certainly one of my favorite all-time players," Spurrier added. "He was one of them. He was a wonderful guy. It's hard to figure out how, or why, this happened. He's one of my all-time favorites — everything about him. He had a wonderful smile. It's a sad day."
The news of McKinley's death spread quickly at the end of South Carolina's practice Monday. Players who normally sprint off the field upbeat walked slowly with their heads down.
"Kenny, he had a big heart, a love for life. It's just very shocking," said Andrew Bondarowicz, McKinley's agent. "I'm really at a loss for words.
The Life of McKinley
After leaving South Cobb High School McKinley attended the University of South Carolina. As a true freshman in 2005, he worked his way into the starting line-up at wide receiver and also handled the punt return duties. He started six games and ranked third on the team with 25 catches for 291 yards and returned 18 punts for 83 yards. He caught three passes for a season-high 58 yards in the win at Arkansas, including a 42-yard reception for his first career touchdown, which proved to be the game-winner.
During his sophomore year in 2006, McKinley started all 13 games and recorded 51 receptions and 880 yards. That ranked second on the team behind another soon-to-be NFL player Sidney Rice. His best game was an eight-catch, 110-yard effort against Auburn, the first 100-yard receiving day in his career. He had another great game when he had a three-catch, 112-yard performance in the Liberty Bowl that included a pair of fourth-quarter, 43-yard touchdown receptions. He also returned 17 punts for 151 yards, an average of 8.9 yards per return (seventh in the SEC) with a long of 21 yards. And was also given the Carolina Hustle Award following spring drills. He averaged 17.3 yards per catch that year.
Before the start of McKinley's junior year in 2007, Sidney Rice decided to forego the remainder of his college eligibility to enter the 2007 NFL Draft. This made McKinley's the Gamecocks’ top returning wide receiver in 2007.
He would go on to earn first-team honors from the SEC coaches (All-SEC), the Associated Press and CollegeFootballNews. He was second-team All-SEC by Rivals.com and honorable mention All-America honors from CollegeFootballNews.com.
Despite playing with turf toe most of the year, as the Gamecocks’ #1 receiver, McKinley not only led the team but led the Southeastern Conference (SEC) in receptions (a school-record 77), receptions per game (6.42) and in receiving yards per game (80.7). He also was number one at South Carolina in yards (968) and touchdowns (9). He had four 100-yard receiving games in 2007, including a school record 14 catch performance against Tennessee where he had a career-best 151 yards. He has a number of standout games against Clemson, Georgia and Mississippi State. He had four 100-yard receiving games, three against SEC opponents and one against Clemson, and has six in his career. He was given the Ernest A. Brooks Memorial Award for the MVP of the Carolina-Clemson game and shared the Joe Morrison Award as the Offensive Player of the spring with Blake Mitchell.
In 2008, McKinley entered his senior year as an All-America candidate that was in position to break every South Carolina school career receiving records. He began the 2008 campaign ranked tied for fourth in career receptions (153), sixth in career receiving yards (2,139) and tied for sixth in receiving touchdowns (15) in Carolina history. The school records were held by Sterling Sharpe (169 receptions and 2,497 receiving yards) and Sidney Rice (23 touchdown catches). Despite being out of the lineup for a three-game stretch due to a right hamstring strain, he set school career records for receptions and receiving yards, while also closing out his career second on the school's all-time touchdown catches list. McKinley also placed his name in the SEC record books. He finished the 2008 season with 54 receptions, 642 receiving yards and 4 touchdown catches. His 207 total receptions placed third in conference annals, becoming just the fifth SEC player to amass more than 200 catches in a career. He also became the 12th player in league history to record more than 2,700 receiving yards (2,781).
His head coach Steve Spurrier had called him the best receiver he has ever coached.
Leading into the 2009 NFL Draft there was a number of scouting reports out that had been projecting McKinley as a 3rd to 4th round pick. And they had a similar analysis, here are a few on McKinley:
The Good: A tall, fluid receiver who displays great footwork and change-of-direction skills in all areas of his game. Gets up to speed quickly and plays a lot faster than his times indicate. Transitions very well in and out of his breaks and showcases the burst to separate on all levels of the field. Pays close attention to detail and runs sharp, precise routes. Extends well and has the hands to make plays away from his body.
The Bad: Has a thin, frail-looking build and lacks power on contact. Struggles as a blocker, and if he can’t beat press coverage cleanly, he struggles fighting through the hand battles. Needs to displays better concentration over the middle.
Positives: Good initial quickness off the snap. Not a real physical player, but uses his hands and lateral quickness well to get a clean release off the line of scrimmage. Savvy route-runner. Good short-area burst and is a cognizant route-runner. Varies his speed and utilizes his good body control to generate separation against tight coverage. Reliable hands for the reception. Strong hands to snatch the ball out of the air. Good body control to contort in space and make the difficult reception. Knows where the sticks and sidelines are. Can take a pop and hang on. Wastes no time getting upfield after the reception. Good vision in the open field and can generate positive yards after the reception.
Negatives: Lanky, almost skinny build that could use additional mass, but not at the expense of losing speed, another area of concern. Lacks the straight-line speed to challenge deep or to break away after a short or intermediate reception. Can be caught from behind. Characterized as a tough player, but can be intimidated with a good pop early. Can get alligator arms going over the middle.
Injuries had never been a problem for McKinley, but they are starting to creep up so that could be a concern among NFL scouts. He had surgery on his big toe during this past off-season, but was ready to go well before the start of the regular season. He strained a hamstring, however, early in the year and that sidelined him for three games. McKinley is back now and still has 28 catches for 333 yards and three touchdowns despite missing that valuable time. He does have damaging speed, but not size (6'0 and 185 pounds). McKinley is extremely quick off the ball, runs great routes, and has breakaway speed with a 4.40 time in the 40-yard dash. McKinley will probably have to bulk up a little bit to be a major factor at the next level, but with that speed he could be a standout slot receiver and a significant contributor on special teams. A third or fourth round pick appears likely as long as he stays healthy.
McKinley was good at the NFL combine. He was a top performer in the 40-yard dash, Vertical Jump, Broad Jump, 3-cone drill and the 20-yard shuttle. He had a 40 yard dash of 4.44 secs, a vertical jump of 37 inches and a 20 yard shuttle of 4.10 secs.
McKinley would have to wait in the draft until the 5th round where he was drafted by the Denver Broncos. He was 5th pick drafted in the 5th round (141st overall) during the 2009 NFL Draft.
McKinley did recover and participated in the team’s offseason workouts but got hurt again during the first week of training camp and was placed on IR with a knee injury. The team placed the 23-year-old, second-year pro on the team's injured reserve list in early August.
The ReasonNo one will truly know the reason why McKinley took his own life. It was reported that he was depressed from being on injured reverse (IR) again. And that he was also struggling with financial issues. Others have said that the pressure of being such a big college star and that his NFL pro career had been such a challenge had got to him. His agent had said that his second stint on IR had been very difficult. "It's a difficult situation, you go from being a super star in college and his pro career has been a challenge," Bondarowicz said. "These guys, they're made of steel on the outside, but for a lot of them, the challenge of being at your best and living up to all the expectations is a difficult situation. Some people are better equipped and have the support system."
McKinley had his demons but these were unknown to the people that were close to him. This is a sad story about a truly gifted man, what ever the reason for this we may never know.
When people commit suicide, they are in horrific pain, unlike that of anything other people can even fathom. They may not show it. They are mentally ill.
It is not an act of "selfishness." No more than a brain tumor is an act of selfishness. Nobody chooses either one. It is a choice made by the cruelty of chance.
In the mind of the clinically depressed self worth is deconstructed to the point that it is a SELFLESS act to end one’s life. One truly believes that one’s existence is an insurmountable burden to those who care. This belief system grows as brain chemistry reinforces the negative thinking until the only way to ease the burden to those one is closest to, including children, is to remove oneself from the equation through suicide. Of course all would be better off without the burden of the suicides existence.
In the world of football, there little places to turn to express these self destructive emotions. Strength and pain tolerance are prized. Depression is often viewed as feminine or self indulgent in the world at large so in this particular sport it could be seen as a source of mocking and ridicule. But there needs to be people on every team that guys like McKinley can talk to. This is just a tragic story.
Check out this Tribute Video on DenverBroncos.com
Remember HimDon’t just remember Kenny McKinley for this one act out of desperation. Remember McKinley as the guy that also had a simile on his face that brimmed from ear to ear. That he had a terrific college career and broke college records that were held by Sterling Sharpe. Remember McKinley as the talented young man that had so much in front of him and what he could have been. Remember him as the loving father that left behind a son. Remember him for the person he was and the life he lived, not the decision that he made. May all our thoughts and prays go out to his family and his son ~ Aussie Out!