When Denver Broncos team captain Wesley Woodyard spoke about former teammate Kenny McKinley on Sept. 21 you couldn’t help but notice the tears in his eyes. Woodyard remembered the young receiver as a caring and loving person who always had a smile on his face and treated everybody with respect.
The 23-year-old McKinley, who was a fifth-round draft choice in 2009, was found dead just the day before from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound. He's survived by his parents, Karen and Ken, along with Keon, his one-year-old son.
Woodyard described McKinley as a happy-go-lucky person who was always smiling and quick with a joke.
Broncos head coach Josh McDaniels said players met the day after McKinley’s death so they could share the grieving process as an extended family and support each other, McKinley’s family, and his son. McDaniels added that McKinley was always enthusiastic even when he was sidelined by a knee injury last season, and he transferred that exuberance to everybody involved with the team.
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The club will leave McKinley's locker untouched during the rest of the season to pay tribute to him. There will also be a moment of silence for him before Sunday’s home game against the Indianapolis Colts and his teammates will wear a number 11 decal in his honor. The Broncos also said they'll hold a memorial and help support McKinley’s family.
Woodyard said the players will all have heavy hearts as they prepare for their week-three game against the Colts, but will be there to support each other. He said he knows McKinley would want the team to play as hard as possible during the game and he expects himself and his teammates to do just that.
"We've got to play with him on our shoulders and in our hearts," Woodyard stated. "I think that's something that's going to allow us to continue push through this week. Together we'll get through everything."