Denver Broncos player Kenny McKinley, South Carolina's all-time leader in receptions and regarded as one of the best players in program history, was found dead in his Denver home Monday evening.
Arapahoe County Sheriff Grayson Robinson said authorities were called to McKinley's home in Centennial on Monday and found his body in the second-floor master bedroom. He said detectives believe McKinley died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
McKinley played at USC from 2005-08 and is the career leader in receptions (207), receiving yards (2,781) and consecutive games with a reception (43). He was drafted by the Broncos in the fifth round of the 2009 NFL draft.
""It's hard to comprehend,"" USC coach Steve Spurrier said. ""Kenny was one of my favorite all-time players. … Wonderful guy. It's hard to figure how or why it happened.
""It's a sad day, a sad day.""
McKinley attended USC's game at Georgia last weekend and spoke with athletics director Eric Hyman.
""I cannot believe this. I'm sick to my stomach,"" Hyman said. ""He was such a great kid.
""He was upbeat, positive, happy-go-lucky,"" Hyman said of McKinley's demeanor during their conversation. ""Every time you were around him, he had a smile on his face. He was just real positive.""
Carolina Panthers rookie defensive end Eric Norwood played three years with McKinley at USC. Norwood said he saw McKinley in Atlanta over the summer and did not sense his former teammate was having problems despite his injury woes. McKinley injured his knee halfway through last season and didn't return; he was placed on injured reserve this season, meaning he wouldn't have played.
""I never thought anything of that nature with him, even when he got hurt,"" Norwood said. ""He was energetic, and he had a positive outlook on things.
""I was just with him this summer … (he was) like the same old Kenny, give everybody a smile.""
McKinley played eight games on special teams last season with the Broncos, returning seven kicks for 158 yards and three punts for 32 yards.
An NFL source told The Denver Post that McKinley had been in Atlanta visiting family recently but had returned to Denver on Sunday.
McKinley is survived by a young son.
""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,"" Denver coach Josh McDaniels said in a statement Monday night; he is scheduled to hold a news conference at 2 p.m. today. ""This is a tragic loss for our football team, and his family is in all of our thoughts and prayers during this difficult time.""
""Everyone with the Broncos is shocked and saddened by the loss of Kenny McKinley,"" Broncos owner Pat Bowlen said. ""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.""
Josh Kendall, Neil White, Ron Morris, Joseph Person of the Charlotte Observer, The Associated Press and the Denver Post contributed to this report, which appeared at gogamecocks.com.