South Cobb High School saddened by the death of former football star Kenny McKinley (UPDATED)

Kenny McKinley at South Cobb in 2005 (AJC file)

Kenny McKinley at South Cobb in 2005 (AJC file)

Kenny McKinley’s high school coach had a tough time dealing with the news of the NFL player’s death on Monday night.

McKinley, 23, who was a wide receiver with the Denver Broncos, died of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound, Colorado detectives told the AP.

“I’m shocked, devastated and in total disbelief because Kenny was one of the most pleasant and happy young men that I’ve ever been around,” former South Cobb assistant coach Derek Cook told the AJC on Monday. “Even when Kenny got in trouble at football practice and had to run, he was still smiling and laughing. I just can’t understand [his death] or believe it.”

At South Cobb, McKinley was one of the greatest players in school history, graduating in 2005. His quarterbacks coach for all four years in high school was Cook, who is now the head coach at Kell High School.

South Cobb’s current coach is Ed Koester, who was hired two years after McKinley’s graduation. However, Koster knew all about McKinley’s legacy at the Austell school and later in college. McKinley went on to have a record-breaking career at the University of South Carolina.

“Obviously, at South Cobb, we are saddened by the news about Kenny,” Koester told the AJC. “Our thoughts and prayers are with his family.”

Cook and his former star pupil remained close friends over the years. McKinley spoke to Cook’s team at Kell High School last year. “He talked to the kids about what it takes to make it to the NFL, how hard you have to work, and to listen to your high school coaches,” recalled Cook.

Cook and his wife flew to Denver to watch McKinley play for the Broncos last season.

As a senior at South Cobb in 2005, McKinley played QB and threw for 1,470 yards and 16 touchdowns, while rushing for 750 yards and 12 touchdowns. He was ranked as the nation’s No. 54 athlete by Rivals. The team’s head coach at the time was Shane Queen, who could not be reached for comment on Monday night.

When asked about his favorite memory of McKinley, Cook said, “When he was a freshman, I wanted Kenny to go to the press box with me so he could see what I saw. This was South Cobb’s first varsity game, and Kenny wasn’t on the varsity yet. Kenny is supposed to be studying the game and writing things down. I look over at him and he’s eating chicken wings from the food table. I’m thinking ‘Golly, I’m trying to get his talented freshman to learn something and he’s up here eating food.’

“As it turned out, the next week he was our starting quarterback on the varsity. In one week, he went from eating chicken wings in press box to leading our football team on the field — and he had a great first game. He was smiling and laughing all the way. He was a special player and a special person.”

We will have more updates

South Cobb's Kenny McKinley (left) after signing with South Carolina in 2005 (AJC)

South Cobb's Kenny McKinley (left) after signing with South Carolina in 2005 (AJC)

52 comments Add your comment

Stephen Wilson

September 21st, 2010
12:22 am

My sincere prayers and thoughts are with the McKinley family during this tragic time. This young man accomplished quite a bit while he was here on earth and he will definitely be remembered, in a positive way, by all those who came in contact with him.


September 21st, 2010
1:53 am

Someone help me out, wasn’t he in the same graduating class as DeAndre Adams, former South Cobb basketball player?

So sad

September 21st, 2010
1:55 am

Wasn’t he a pall bearer at DeAndre’s funeral?


September 21st, 2010
5:57 am

To the McKinley family,

My sister committed the same act in the same manner, leaving a young son and her family in total shock and confusion. I know how you feel!

This is not anyone’s fault; this is the act of a person manufacturing such false doom and gloom in their head that they spiral down so far in despair their mind tricks them into believing the situation is hopeless and there will never be a way out. This is utterly bewildering and you must accept that there was likely absolutely nothing you could have done differently, more of, or less than. Worse, he didn’t give you the chance to help him! This was the toughest part for us: we weren’t given the chance to help!

10 years has now past, and although our family is still saddened and miss her, we turned our time, attention and love over to those alive with us and we became stronger and closer than ever as a result. We watch more closely to make sure everyone’s head is screwed on correctly and we spend a whole lot more time together than ever before. I pray this for your family and friends too.

Time will pass and one day you will read or hear about something like this as I have and it will remind you of Kenny. This will be your opportunity to share and I have shared; this will be your opportunity to comfort another family as only one who has experienced such and recovered can do.

God will comfort you and help you get through these next several days.

Alumnus, South Cobb High School

You know me

September 21st, 2010
6:51 am

Larry, my prayers go out to you and your family as well. However, let’s not jump the gun because it’s an apparent suicide. Let the investigators do their job before we assume that this young man took his own life. A life was lost, and the only thing that should matter right now is that Mr. McKinley son and family need our support and prayers.

May God bless and comfort the McKinley family in their time of need.

Kenny, you will be truly missed. Rest in Peace.

Say It Aint So

September 21st, 2010
6:55 am

Our sincere prayers go out to the McKinnley family. Kenney was a special young man who touched all of our lives from rec ball to his heroics at South Cobb HS to his playing at South Carolina. We will truely miss that smile. Lord bless the family.


September 21st, 2010
7:30 am

As a Mom, first and foremost, my prayers and thoughts go out to the family of this young man; second, only God knows what happens in these situations; these men are under so so much pressure to be the best they can be; we never know what a person is going thru in their lives but the only thing we can do is try to stay in touch with our young people and give words of encouragement and let them know that we love them each and every day; we are living in strange times these days and people are not in tune with each other (personally); we are so busy ripping and running thru life; life is so precious and only God can provide peace of mind. I hear so much talk more about what this young man did on the field; while it may have been important to fans and media, these young men and women are human beings and they still have a life to live off the field. Just pray that God will heal this family during this terrible process. Tell your loved ones that you love them for who they are and not for what they do!

Mark Z.

September 21st, 2010
8:07 am

The Milford Baseball program will always remember him!

Christopher "The GEEK SQUAD" Brown

September 21st, 2010
8:26 am

My prayers go out to the family. I am deeply saddened by the news. I only met Kenny a few times, but watched a lot of his games with a good friend of mine, and went tail-gaiting at one of his games, and we used to talk all the time about his stats, etc. He will be deeply missed.


September 21st, 2010
8:28 am

Heartbreaking – Mckinley was a helluva football player – didn’t know him personally, but my thoughts are prayers are with his family and friends.

Mike W.

September 21st, 2010
8:38 am

My prayers go out to his family and loved ones, I just moved to SC and we all no and here about him all the time he truely will be missed.

M.H.S. Indian

September 21st, 2010
8:39 am

It was a true honor watching this young man playing high school ball . wonderful athletic skills and obviously well loved off the field . May God bless him and his family .

Former_co-worker_of_Ken Sr.

September 21st, 2010
8:42 am

Ken Sr. may GOD bless you and your family during these dark hours. Mere words turned to dust on my tongue when I learned of the tragic news about Ken Jr.

From our days of working together at MFC when little Kenny was about 7 yrs old, I recall how you would leave work to attend football practices and games as well the pictures of him you had proudly displayed in your office.

I cannot start to imagine the why’s and the how’s you guys are feeling and I only suggest that you guys try to remember that through the dark and lonely hours it is then that your GOD is carrying you and your family.

May GOD bless you and your family.

Truly Saddened

September 21st, 2010
8:51 am

I did not have the pleasure of meeting Kenny, but I did have the pleasure of working with his mom and sisters years ago. I am truly saddened by the events of what have taken place. At least now we know he is in a better place. I’ll keep the McKinley Family in my thoughts and prayers.


September 21st, 2010
9:13 am

Yes, he was pallbearer at De’Andre Adams funeral. He was one the greatest football players to ever step foot into Clay Stadium on the campus of South Cobb High School. I live in his neighborhood on the same street. My deepest Condolences to Karen, Ken, Kimberly, and Kayla and the entire family. He will be greatly missed.

Lois West Hurt

September 21st, 2010
9:16 am

My deepest sympathy goes out to the McKinley’s Family and friends. I didn’t know your son personally, but I did see him play against my son team Pebblebrook. He was a great player!

Always know God will take care of you all during this time of beavrements and in the future. My prayers goes out to all.

Richard Alpert

September 21st, 2010
9:17 am

From the Harrison Hoya and Georgia Bulldog communities: Our thoughts and prayers are with the McKinley family today and always. Kenny was a class act and wonderful representative of Cobb County and the state of Georgia. I enjoyed watching Kenny on the field but from what I’ve come to learn, he was even more spectacular off it. God bless you all and know that so many families and communities across the country are with you during this time.

Lowcountry Bulldawg

September 21st, 2010
9:17 am

Such sad news. Larry, the words you spoke were very thoughtful and hopefully be read by the family. Never new the young man, but lived in the Carolina’s while he was at USC and it always seemed he got the most out of his talent while in Columbia. He may not have been the biggest or the fastest, but he displayed more heart than you could imagine. I remember thinking if Sydney Rice cared as much as Kenny McKinley did then USC would have been unstoppable.

So sorry for your lose, and may god comfort you in your time of sorrow!


September 21st, 2010
9:19 am

My prayers go out to the family. My daughter and Kenny were together at Milford and at South Cobb HS. He was an outstanding player and we enjoyed watching him play. He was an outstanding person and will be truly missed.


September 21st, 2010
9:25 am


SC War Eagle 4 Life

September 21st, 2010
9:37 am

My prayers go out to the McKinley family during this time. I didn’t play football w/ him as I graduated in 2000 but I was apart of the SC football family which means he and I are related and it hurts the same. He will always be a War Eagle for life in my eyes as well as the rest of the South Cobb family.


September 21st, 2010
9:59 am

My thoughts and prayers are with Kenny’s family. He was a great young man and in the presence of God now.

I hope you can find some comfort in knowing that he will be missed by the many who knew him. R.I.P. #11.


September 21st, 2010
10:21 am

Georgia & The University of South Carolina just lost a family member today. Kenny will always be remembered as a person that was full of life and someone who worked harder than most to get to where he was. I don’t know what went wrong to cause him to take his own life, but I hope he rests in peace. Kenny, you will be missed. God bless you and your family. Rest in peace.


September 21st, 2010
10:41 am

I’m not familiar with the family, but I want to offer my sincerest and most heart-felt sympathies to them. May God keep you in his arms during the rough days ahead. Don’t try to make sense out it. There IS no sense in the loss of a young person. Know that even we, as strangers, hope that God’s love will see you through this tough time. Sincely, Susan

Sharon Veldsma

September 21st, 2010
11:43 am

My deepest sympathies to Kenny’s family and friends. I knew Kenny as a teacher at South Cobb H.S. He was a cut above. Always respectful always smiling, what a loss for us all. Kenny may you know peace.

Anthony Henderson

September 21st, 2010
11:45 am

My prayers and thoughts are with you Mr. McKinley and your family. We talked several times about your son while conducting business and I know how proad you are of Kenny. Just recall all of the good times that you guys shared together as father and son and hold on to that. You provided him with great guidance and although we may not agree with how his physical life came to a close, he shall live on in the hearts of the ones that loved him. Rest in peace, Kenny.

War Jacket

September 21st, 2010
12:46 pm

I worked the chains one night at a S. Cobb vs. Sprayberry football game. Our crew worked the S. Cobb sidelines and I got first hand view of McKinley that night. He was a man amongst boys and when he came off the sidelines, he would flash that smile and his teammates would just gravitate around him. Because of that, I followed his career at S.C. and wasn’t surprised to see him set records there. I am really sorry to hear this news and my thoughts go out to his family.


September 21st, 2010
1:02 pm

this is sad…but so many coaches look at depression as a weakness. my son plays college football and i talk with the coach last year about my son being depress and my son was called into the coach office and told he need to get himself together.

C. Mercer

September 21st, 2010
1:26 pm

May God bless and keep the McKinley family in this time of grief and loss. I am so sorry for your loss.

[...] At South Cobb, McKinley was one of the greatest players in school history, graduating in 2005. His quarterbacks coach for all four years in high school was Cook, who is now the head coach at Kell High School.-AJC [...]

Class of @005

September 21st, 2010
2:25 pm

Yes, Kenny was a pall bearer at De’Andre’s funeral and yes he graduated with the South Cobb High class of 2005. De’Andre and Kenny were very close friends and I just so happen to have been close friends with them both as well. We all are just heartbroken. First Dre and now Kenny. It’s so unreal.

Heart's Out

September 21st, 2010
2:44 pm

It’s sad to hear of a young person with talent leave us so soon. I didn’t know Kenny personally and I am not sure of his exact situation, but his story reminded me of a couple others that were close to me that passed in similar fashion.

I actually watched a couple of spotlight clips on Youtube of Kenny while he was at the University of South Carolina. He seemed to be a very humble and friendly young man. My heart goes out to all of Kenny’s family and friends.


September 21st, 2010
3:49 pm

Such sad news. My heart, thoughts and prayers go out to the McKinley family and friends.

Rest in Peace Kenny.


September 21st, 2010
5:59 pm

Let’s wake up people! This dear young man had some things going on in his head that lead him to desperation. Something he didn’t share with anyone, even his loving parents. If anyone else out there has these condemning, hopeless, tortureous thoughts going on in their mind, please don’t be too embarrassed to tell someone(esp. men). There’s help out there, but such a stigma, esp. with our people. I feel saddened, hurt and angry when I hear of suicides, esp. with our young people. TELL SOMEONE, PLEASE. God will see you through. May the God of all comfort, work through others to comfort his parents & sisters by being his mouth,legs, arms and ears.


September 21st, 2010
6:27 pm

Being a huge Denver Bronco fan, and living here in Cobb Co. It is so heartbreaking to hear about another fine young man die for no apparent reason. My heart goes out to his family, friends and teammates. We are still coping with the loss of Rajaan Bennett here at McEachern, and now this one of my Bronco players is gone. May his soul rest in peace.


September 21st, 2010
7:01 pm

Kenny-I had the pleasure of being a small part of your life years ago in the South Cobb Middle SChool program. I’ll never forget you and how much fun we had on the field, and how much I enjoyed being your coach. From the throwing drills befroe practice when we would laugh and see who the first one to drop a ball would be, to picking who we would dog pile on kickoffs for fun, to running around after practice, I was always proud of the fact that no matter how small or short our time was it was never out of my memory and always a great. May God Bless you on your journey. You will always be remembered

To the McKinley family-My thoughts and prayers are with you and I pray that god blesses you through this time.

Coach Ellis


September 21st, 2010
7:10 pm

The family of Kenny McKinley are in my thoughts and prayers. My daughter went to school with Kenny. I can still see him playng on the football field. I pray that this young and mighty War Eagle can finally rest his wings and find peace.


September 21st, 2010
8:09 pm

Mr. & Mrs. McKinley and Kimberly and Kayla-I am so sorry for your loss. It’s seems like only a few years ago that I taught Kenny music at Sanders elementary school and would go play hoops with him and some of his 5th grade buddies. When I think of Kenny and the first thing that comes to mind was his infectious smile. It was such a joy to follow his success in football from South Cobb to USC to the pros. My heart is breaking for your family over this. Please know that I am praying that somehow God will give you a peace and some answers through all of this. Let me know if there is anything that I can do for you. My deepest regards.
Mr. C

Dr. Snyder

September 21st, 2010
9:19 pm

Karen, I am devastated over your loss. My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family.

RIP 11

September 21st, 2010
9:33 pm

thank you for the wonderful memories and lives you touched…

Renita Watermann & Family

September 21st, 2010
10:06 pm

We had the pleasure of knowing Kenny as our neighbor. Karen and Ken are such loving and caring people and we could not have asked for better neighbors and friends. You could see the joy and love shared through their childrens eyes. Kenny’s passing was so heart shattering that my family was in a state of shock to hear this sad news. Our prayers go out to the Family during this time of sorrow and we will keep you all in our prayer.

Ken, Renita, Imarai and Ken Jr


September 21st, 2010
10:20 pm

I never knew of this young man and his great accomplishments until his death in the news, But GOD will be with you every step of the way.Peace and harmony your family and just trust in the LORD.


September 21st, 2010
10:24 pm

And I Will Rise when he calls my name
No more sorrow,No more pain
I Will Rise,on Eagle’s wings
Before my God fall on my kness,and rise
I Will Rise

God Bless and R.I.P. Kenny, much love from your South Cobb family.

Herman J

September 21st, 2010
11:23 pm

I lost by baby boy he was just turing eighteen,it hit the family very hard it’s still hurt but we let god fill that empty spot in our life because our son will always fill our heart with the love and good times we had together. May god smile on you and the Mckinley family; you will be in our prayers God Bless


September 21st, 2010
11:35 pm

My daughter attended South Cobb High School with Kenny and said he was the nicest person and a funny guy too, always had a joke and smile for everyone…..our thoughts and prayers are with Kenny, his child and family at this time. He will be missed.


September 22nd, 2010
12:05 am

I have not heard a negative word about Kenny McKinley…. God will take care of him now and He is in our Future in the kingdom of Heaven.


September 22nd, 2010
2:48 am

He sounds like the brother I wish I had.


September 23rd, 2010
7:02 am

Even Spurrier liked him… sometimes life doesn’t make sense. There is life after football. Why do this when there are so many people that love you?


September 23rd, 2010
11:48 am

I remember when South Cobb played Collins Hill in the 2004 playoffs. That was one of the wildest games I had ever seen. 70-68 in 6 or 7 OT’s. Kenny put on a show that night. Very impressed with his abilities & with his career @ South Carolina. Thoughts & prayers to the McKinley family in this difficult & tragic time.

Here & Now

September 23rd, 2010
2:46 pm

I played youth league basketball with Kenny in Smyrna years and years ago. Always an amazing teammate and even better person to be around. My condolences to his family. RIP to both him and DeAndre Adams