By Arnie Stapleton
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Denver Broncos wide receiver Kenny McKinley was found dead in his home last Monday in an apparent suicide.
Arapahoe County Sheriff Grayson Robinson said authorities were called to McKinley’s home in Centennial at 3:35 p.m. local time and found his body in the second-floor master bedroom. He said detectives believe McKinley, 23, was killed by a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
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’s still part of our investigation and probably nothing we’ll talk about right now,” he said.
McKinley’s death is the latest in a series of tragedies for the Broncos in recent years. Cornerback Darrent Williams was slain in a drive-by shooting on New Year’s Day 2007 and three months later backup running back Damien Nash collapsed and died after a charity basketball game in St. Louis.
“Everyone with the Broncos is shocked and saddened by the loss of Kenny McKinley,” team owner Pat Bowlen said in a statement. “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.”
The Broncos said coach Josh McDaniels would meet with the media on Tuesday.
In a statement, McDaniels said: “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. This is a tragic loss for our football team, and his family is in all of our thoughts and prayers during this difficult time.”
McKinley was a second-year pro who was on the team’s injured reserve list. He played in eight games as a rookie in 2009 with seven kick returns for 158 yards before going on injured reserve with a left knee injury on Dec. 29.
He recovered 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 different left knee injury on Aug. 5.
McKinley was a fifth-round draft choice out of South Carolina in 2009. He attended South Cobb High School in Austell, Ga.
McKinley remains South Carolina’s all-time leading receiver with 207 catches for 2,781 yards. He came back to the school earlier this month, watched the Gamecocks beat Georgia 17-6 and visited with his college coach, Steve Spurrier.
“Had a wonderful smile just like he always did,” Spurrier said.
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 was certainly one of my all-time favorite players. It’s hard to figure out why it happened like this,” Spurrier said.
Several Broncos players were attending a fundraiser Monday night in honor of Williams.
Cornerback Champ Bailey and former NFL star John Lynch headlined the wine-tasting VIP event to benefit the Boys & Girls Club of Metro Denver, home of the Darrent Williams Memorial Teen Center.
Bailey told The Associated Press last week that it was an opportunity for fans and friends to celebrate the life of the player they called D-Will, especially after so much attention was focused on the trial earlier this year in which Willie Clark, 26, was convicted of first-degree murder of Williams after a confrontation at a nightclub. Clark was sentenced in April to life in prison plus 1,152 years.
“It’s time to remember the way D-Will lived and not the way he died,” Bailey said last week.
The Broncos, who beat Seattle 31-14 on Sunday, hustled out of their Dove Valley practice facilities Monday night, many of them headed to the charity event unaware of the latest tragedy to befall the franchise.
Players leaving the event said they didn’t want to comment on McKinley’s death.
At McKinley’s home in a subdivision in the southern Denver suburbs, a bouquet of flowers wrapped in purple was propped against the door Monday night.