Times like these remind me how caught up I become in this game we all love so much. It's times like these that remind me how incredibly fortunate I am to be alive, and how I take my happiness for granted. It also makes me wonder why I don't share that happiness with others more often than I do.
I don't claim to have known Kenny McKinley. I don't claim to have been his buddy or anything, but as you can see by the picture, I've been within inches of the guy. I can't help but wonder what might have been going through his mind at this time, while I selfishly stood there clamoring for his signature rather than asking him how he was really doing.
This is the third time the Denver Broncos have lost a player due to death since January 1st, 2007, and quite frankly, that's three too many. I read a post from John on Twitter that said a player should never have to bury his teammate, and he's right. For D.J. Williams, Chris Kuper, Champ Bailey, and Elvis Dumervil, this is the third teammate they have lost.
I can't claim to know McKinley personally, but there are reports coming out right now that he was suffering from depression due to being placed on Injured Reserve for a second straight year, as well as some financial problems. My question would be, "If someone knew about his depression, why weren't they bending over backwards to get this guy help?!"
Kenny McKinley had problems beyond any of our understanding, and what's sad is that someone else knew about it, and didn't do enough to help. By the sounds of it, everyone is absolutely shocked, so perhaps Kenny kept it under wraps.
What makes this day even worse is that McKinley left behind a young son. He was more than a football player, he was a father. I can't imagine what it would be like to have to tell that son someday what happened to his daddy, and I hope I never have to even sniff that situation.
So often, I forget that the players we watch on the field every Sunday are not virtual Madden players. They are not action figures, they are not celebrities--they are people. Kenny McKinley was a teammate, every one of us on this site knows how football players are so much more than just teammates, they are a brotherhood.
This is just further proof that these guys are no immortals. The man whom decorated football coach Steve Spurrier called the best receiver he's ever coached will never again play an NFL down, but that's irrelevant at this point.
Let's put football on the backburner for a moment. We will all always remember Kenny McKinley as a Denver Bronco, maybe some of us will remember him as a South Carolina Gamecock. But those weren't even the forefront of his life.
Lindsay Jones of the Denver Post tweeted that McKinley's locker was filled with pictures of him and his son, and by all accounts, McKinley was a happy guy whose smile could "light up a room."
This is a brutal reminder of how important the men UNDERNEATH the helmet are. Kenny McKinley was more than a wide receiver--he was a man. He was a father to a young boy. He was someone else's son. He was also a brother to those in the Denver Broncos organization, and he will be greatly missed.
I can only wish I'd had the guts to ask him, "How are you doing today, Kenny?" instead of, "Hey, can I have your autograph?!"
Certainly, the Denver Broncos have been building their locker room over the last couple of years to be filled with positive attitudes and great leadership. Apparently, McKinley hadn't been around the facilities lately per Jones, so who knows how much of an impact his teammates could have had?
We will never know why Kenny McKinley decided to end his life on this day, September 20th, 2010, but this is a day when we realize that the players are just like everyone else--they are human, they are imperfect. McKinley was a talent at the receiver position, no doubt. He didn't make a significant impact on the field for the Broncos, and wasn't even going to touch the field for the team in 2010, but this is a huge blow for this team.
Hopefully, our players can harness their feelings and finish the final 14 games of this season with a chip on their shoulder.
Hopefully, players around the league will realize how fragile life is.
All I can do now is keep McKinley, his family, his loved ones, his football brothers, and all of us fans in my thoughts and prayers.
Rest in peace, Kenny. You will always be remembered as a part of the amazing group of people that comprise the Denver Broncos.