ENGLEWOOD, COLO. (AP) - For the third time in four years, the Denver Broncos are dealing with the death of a teammate.
Wide receiver Kenny McKinley was found dead in his home 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 McKinley’s 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 young son. 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 was on injured reserve after hurting his left knee in August for the second time in eight months. He was known for his infectious smile and good sense of humor.
McKinley’s agent, Andrew Bondarowicz, said family and friends are at a loss to explain the death of a young man “who had such a love for life.”
“Everybody has their explanations, their own theories. Whether it was injuries, no one’s going to know for sure,” Bondarowicz said. “It’s a tough situation all the way around.
“Some people speculate that it was his being injured, some said it was financial challenges. … It’s a tragic situation.”
Bondarowicz said funeral arrangements were pending. He also said he’s been in touch with team and the players’ association about setting up a trust fund for McKinley’s son.
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.
McKinley was a fifth-round draft choice out of South Carolina in 2009. He remains South Carolina’s all-time leading receiver with 207 catches for 2,781 yards. He returned to the school earlier this month, watching the Gamecocks beat Georgia 17-6 and visiting with his college coach, Steve Spurrier.
“Had a wonderful smile just like he always did,” Spurrier remembered.
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.
Broncos coach Josh McDaniels said in a statement: “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.”
McDaniels planned to meet with the media on Tuesday, the players’ day off. They’ll reconvene Wednesday to resume preparations for their game against Indianapolis at Invesco Field on Sunday.
McKinley was a second-year pro who 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, two days after he was hurt in a game at Philadelphia.
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 on Aug. 5.
Several Broncos players were attending a fundraiser Monday night in honor of Williams but declined to comment on McKinley’s death.
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.
The Broncos 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.
Several said as they left the event that they weren’t ready to talk about 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.
AP Sports Writers Pete Iacobelli in Columbia, S.C., and Pat Graham and Associated Press Writers Ivan Moreno and Kristen Wyatt in Denver contributed to this story.
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