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Published on 09/21/2010 at Tue Sep 21 12:00.
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Denver Broncos wide receiver Kenny McKinley (AP Photo)

Denver Broncos wide receiver Kenny McKinley (AP Photo)

“We will play with him on our shoulders and in our hearts.” — Wesley Woodyard on Kenny McKinley

Denver Broncos Head Coach Josh McDaniels and team captain Wesley Woodyard held an emotional press conference Tuesday following the apparent suicide of teammate Kenny McKinley. The meeting with the media followed a team meeting and grief counseling at Dove Valley.

An emotional McDaniels meets the media Tuesday (Getty)

An emotional McDaniels meets the media Tuesday (Getty)

“He was a special person,” McDaniels said of McKinley.

“I’ve had the opportunity to have two draft classes in two years,” McDaniels said, fighting back tears. “I’m not sure if any one of those kids enjoyed the phone call as much as Kenny did.”

McDaniels said the team will hold a moment of silence on Sunday and wear #11 decals on their helmets in McKinley’s honor. Kenny’s locker will remain in the locker room for the remainder of the season, per the players’ wishes.

Press conference transcript and additional quotes after the jump.


The Denver Broncos lost one of their own on Monday when it was learned that Kenny McKinley died at the age of 23. He is survived by his parents, Ken and Karen, and his son, Keon. Broncos Head Coach Josh McDaniels addressed the media Tuesday along with linebacker Wesley Woodyard, who is one of the Broncos’ captains. Below are quotes from the session. Also included at the bottom of this e-mail are quotes from several individuals who were close to McKinley.


Opening Comments

“We are stunned and extremely saddened to hear about the news of Kenny McKinley’s death yesterday. We’d like to offer our condolences, publicly, to his family and friends. Most of all, his parents Ken and Karen and to his son Keon. We’d ask that you join all of us in keeping them in your thoughts and prayers. (I’d) also like to thank everybody in the community and around the National Football League for all of their support during this difficult time. Our team is a close-knit group and it was good to have them here together today to try to share in the grieving process. I know it won’t be easy to do this. When you spend this much time together, you’re like an extended family and I think that our group has a lot of strength and they’ll support each other. Most importantly, we’ll all be there to support Kenny’s family, Kenny’s friends and his son. I know maybe not all of you got to know Kenny McKinley, but he was a special person. (He) had a great smile, a great personality, always in a good mood — certainly very well liked by everybody who knew him. (He) had a great offseason and we were looking forward to Kenny making an impact on our football team this year. I’ve had an opportunity to have two draft classes here in two years and…I’m not sure that any one of those kids enjoyed the phone call as much as Kenny did — and that was him. He was excited about (being drafted) and he was looking forward to the opportunity and that’s what he brought every day. We’re certainly going to miss him being around here. I know our players will, I know our coaches will, and  again, we’ll get through this together and like I said, most importantly, we’ll be there to support his family during this most difficult time. Out of respect for his family and Kenny, I’m not going to speak about circumstances or details surrounding the situation but I will take a few questions.”

On the team’s plans to honor McKinley for the game vs. Indianapolis on Sunday

“There will be a moment of silence. We’ll certainly wear a decal with his number (11) on it and we’re going to leave his locker up this year — the team decided to do that. We’re going to leave the locker in the locker room. As far as a memorial or anything like that, we’re still trying to be respectful of his parents and his family and their desires in terms of what we want to go forward and do here, but certainly we’re going to do something.”

On the impact of his death on the team

“I think there has to be. This makes the game seem kind of small at times. We’ve provided — there are going to be counselors here as long as we need them to be here with our players and staff and I think they’ve talked to us (and told us) that if you feel a certain way, you should go ahead and feel that. You shouldn’t want to suppress that during that time. Hopefully our players will do what they need to do. We’re certainly not going to all grieve the same way, but I think we’ll support each other and the emotions that people feel — they’re OK, they’re OK.”

On whether there were any indications that this could happen

“No. We’ve all seen him recently and he’s been the same person every time we’ve seen him. He liked junk food and chips and things like that. He was in the cafeteria or in the training room when we’re seeing him the last so many weeks here — nothing that would alarm us to anything like this.”

On the team meeting today

“We met with the team this morning at 10 a.m.”

On the decision to place McKinley on Injured Reserve

“He knew — it was really a decision we made together because he knew the extent of his injury and it was really a choice that he was very involved in. There are situations where you can try to do something else and fight through it, or (the player) can try to have the operation and then go ahead and be ready to go for the next year and that’s what we chose together. He was very much a part of that decision and he was working hard with his rehab so I don’t think there were any feelings otherwise.”

On whether or not he has spoken with McKinley’s family

“We’re kind of in the process of that. We’re very respectful, certainly, of their time at this point in terms of (their) transitioning here or traveling here — the organization has been in contact and we’re going to continue to stay in contact with them.”

On the last time he saw McKinley

“I saw him a couple of — maybe not even a couple of weeks ago in the cafeteria. He was the same kid — happy smile, you could see all his teeth. Certainly, I don’t have any memories negative about Kenny because of the spirit that he had.”

On the team meeting

“(It was) quiet. I think there are certain groups that may have been closer to Kenny than others, but everyone was very respectful of one another and very eager to be involved in the support of his family. The captains were adamant about that and wanted to make sure that we are doing everything we can to help his son — which we are — and help support his family.”

On how he approaches the game on Sunday with this tragedy

“You know, it’s not going to be a normal week. We are not going to try and pretend that it’s a normal week. We are going to do our work and get ready to go and like I said, I think really respect everybody’s ability to go through this differently. We are not going to ask everybody to be the same, and we are not all going to be the same. I think the players will understand that the week is going to go forward and we are going to have to handle that as well as get ready for the Colts and be ready to play on Sunday. It will be different, but I think our group will continue to so what they have done, which is prepare hard and get ready to play.”

On whether he is leaning on anybody inside the organization for advice

“I was actually involved in (dealing with a player’s death) in New England with (DE) Marquise Hill and I know there’s a lot of people here that experienced (the) Darrent (Williams) and Damien (Nash) situations. I think everybody is kind of leaning on each other. There are some people here certainly that have professional experience in dealing with these kind of things. They spoke to the team this morning, and they’ll be here as long as we need them. I think our team, like I said, it’s like a family and hopefully together we’ll push through.”

On the pressures of playing in the NFL

“Each player is different, each person is different. Whether you are in the National Football League or not, there are things you are going through each day that all of us have on our minds. I think at this point to respect the fact that just because you are in the NFL in some capacity doesn’t mean that there aren’t other things that are concerning to you or other people. So, we all have issues that we are going to have to deal with personally that have nothing to do with our profession, and I don’t think the players or coaches or anybody else for that matter are out of the question in that regard. I think just, again, asking people outside of our building to respect his family and support them and understand that there are things that — certainly all of us aren’t perfect and there are issues we all have to deal with.”

On whether any players spoke at the meeting

“No, I mean, we prayed for his family and him, but other than that, I spoke to (the team) and tried to inform them on a lot of the details of what we’re going to do going forward and some of those things and then the counselors spoke as well in the team meeting along with our security people and just tried to encourage our players to take advantage of the counselors that are here and whatever support that they may need to go ahead and access here. That was pretty much it. I know, like I said, it was a great turnout for short notice. A lot of the guys were here — most of them, if not all of them were here and all of them (are) pretty much feeling the same thing.”


Opening Comments

“On behalf of the players, Kenny’s friends, teammates and the Denver Broncos family, I don’t think anybody in that locker room could remember anything bad about Kenny. He was a very loving, caring guy — always had a big smile on his face and always showed everybody respect. I think of one moment where he had everybody on the team come over for a cookout and there were a couple of guys in front of his house making a lot of noise and he was like, ‘Hey man, you guys come inside, I’ve got neighbors and you guys have got to be respectful.’ It’s tough anytime you lose a guy like him — especially a young guy. We would just love for the community to support his family and support us as players and together we’ll get through everything. Like I said, it’s a tough moment to lose a family member, let alone a teammate like Kenny.”

On playing against McKinley in college (Woodyard played at Kentucky, McKinley at South Carolina)

“One thing about Kenny — he was a competitor and when he got the football in his hands, he was very hard to tackle and playing against him — we knew he was just an unstoppable guy and just a real good competitor whenever he was on the football field.”

On the when he saw McKinley last

“I actually saw Kenny a week and a half ago. He was over here picking up some stuff out of his locker and he was always a guy that used to love to joke with me and I would joke back and forth with him. He had a big smile on his face and he just walked out of the building and that’s the last thing that we remember: That huge smile, like (Head Coach Josh McDaniels) said. He always showed every tooth in his mouth, just smiling and being happy.”

On how the team is coping

“Well, football is a stressful job, but that’s the thing — we have to be a team. The thing that we have to do well is just be able to reach out to one another on the team and continue to just talk through our problems. It’s the same thing with people in everyday life — you’ve got to talk to somebody in your life just to help you work out those problems.”

On the team meeting this morning

“We just discussed how to approach things. The biggest thing was just to make sure we continue to pray and make sure we wrapped around each other and use the help that’s been offered to us. Different counselors here and that was the biggest thing — making sure we learned how to deal with it.”

On how the team can continue to prepare for the game on Sunday vs. Indianapolis

“We’ve got to have a heavy heart. We still have to come in here and get ready for a football game. I think Kenny — he would love for us to continue to play through his spirits. We’ve got to play with him on our shoulders and in our hearts, so I think that’s something that’s going to allow us to continue to push through this week.”

On his lasting memory of McKinley

“Like I said, every memory we have of Kenny is a joke (he told) and a big smile. That’s the last thing that we’re ever realizing and I think that’s the last thing that as a player and as his family, that we would love everybody to remember — that he was just a loving, caring, respectable guy and always had a huge smile on his face.”

On how the team can help McKinley’s family

“Well, whatever it takes. This is a time for them that we can help them ease their pain. It’s obviously hard to lose a son and a grandson and a dad at that. We’re just going to be here — like Coach said, we may have a memorial for him and just be here for us and continue to pray for their well being.”

Additional Comments from those close to Kenny McKinley

“Kenny was the life of the wide receivers’ meeting room with his personality and the way he was always joking around with his teammates. He made such a positive impact on our receivers, loosening things up with his smile and laugh. Kenny worked extremely hard to get to where he was in the spring with his rehab program and was very excited about his future. I really enjoyed my time with him during the last two years and will cherish the memories we had together. He was a great kid, and everyone on our team will miss him.”

-Denver Broncos Wide Receivers Coach Adam Gase

“My favorite memory is that Kenny really was the first player to commit to South Carolina (in Spurrier’s tenure), although he committed about two days before I was hired. During recruiting I asked why he committed to South Carolina and he said, “I read in the paper that they were going to hire you. I knew the ball would be in the air and I’d have a chance to play wide receiver.’ When he showed up he must have weighed 150 pounds. Skinny kid. Of course he’s the all-time leading receiver (in South Carolina history). Probably the big game was the Tennessee game of `05. We snuck in there to win 16-15. He made several third down catches. The slant and fade routes, he could run them as well as any receiver I ever coached. We compare Ace (Sanders) to Kenny as far as quickness to get out of routes and so forth. Kenny was always a wonderful team player, well-liked by everyone and never complained if he didn’t get passes.”

-University of South Carolina Head Coach Steve Spurrier

“Kenny was my closest of friends. We became so close so quickly, and although it was an unlikely bond it was as tight as you could get. We spoke regularly and he was always there for me. He was the last guy I saw in Denver and was looking forward to seeing him again this week. I loved him like a brother and always will for his big heart and huge smile. I will miss him greatly.”

-Indianapolis Colts Quarterback Tom Brandstater (former teammate with McKinley in 2009; fellow ’09 draft class member)

“Kenny was such a good guy, such a fun guy to be around. He was a happy guy who had a great sense of humor and he’s going to be missed by so many people. He was funny and always kept people around him upbeat. I’m shocked he’s gone.”

-Minnesota Vikings Wide Receiver Sidney Rice (college teammate of McKinley)

  • areferee

    It now sounds like Kenny may have been depressed because of the chronic pain he suffered since his knee surgery. Tragic, if true.

  • areferee

    It now sounds like Kenny may have been depressed because of the chronic pain he suffered since his knee surgery. Tragic, if true.