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'On Our Shoulders and In Our Hearts'

Posted Sep 21, 2010

The Broncos met Tuesday morning to discuss the loss of their teammate, Kenny McKinley. Head Coach Josh McDaniels and Wesley Woodyard couldn't recall the young receiver without a smile.

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Just a loving, caring guy who always showed everyone respect -- and did it with a huge smile on his face.

That's how Wesley Woodyard will remember Kenny McKinley.

With tears in his eyes, the team captain spoke about his fallen teammate Tuesday, recalling the joy the young receiver brought to the locker room.

"Every memory we have of Kenny is a joke (he told) and a big smile," he said. "He always showed every tooth in his mouth, just smiling and being happy."

McKinley, a fifth-round draft pick in 2009, died at the age of 23 on Monday.

He is survived by his parents, Ken and Karen, and his 1-year-old son, Keon.

On Tuesday -- typically the players' day off -- the team gathered for a meeting to talk about the loss and show support for each other.

"Our team is a close-knit group," Head Coach Josh McDaniels said. "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."

The freshness of the tragedy was evident as McDaniels and Woodyard spoke. Both men fought back tears as they described a player who was always full of energy and ready to share a laugh with his teammates.

Even as he was rehabbing a knee injury that caused him to miss the 2010 season, McKinley never lost the exuberance that made him who he was. And from the day he officially became a Bronco, that "spirit" of his was evident.

"I've had an opportunity to have two draft classes here in two years," McDaniels said, pausing to compose himself. "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 it. 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."

As a tribute, the team decided to leave McKinley's locker untouched for the remainder of the season. On Sunday, there will be a moment of silence in his memory before the game and the players will wear a decal sporting his No. 11. The team hopes to hold a memorial for McKinley, and the captains were adamant that the club does "whatever it takes" to support his family.

That message of support was echoed throughout the team meeting, both for McKinley's family and the Broncos themselves.

Counselors will be at Dove Valley for as long as players, coaches and staff members need them, and everyone inside the building is there for each other.

"The biggest thing was just to make sure we continue to pray and that we're wrapped around each other," Woodyard said.

Through it all, the Broncos know they have a game to prepare for, as the Indianapolis Colts come to INVESCO Field at Mile High on Sunday.

So it's with a "heavy heart," as Woodyard put it, that the team will continue to prepare for Week 3.

The captain had no doubt that McKinley would want the Broncos to prepare and play as hard as they possibly can, and he expects nothing less from himself and teammates.

And though McKinley won't be playing on Sunday, the team will make sure he makes it onto the field.

"We've got to play with him on our shoulders and in our hearts," Woodyard said. "I think that's something that's going to allow us to continue push through this week."

"Together we'll get through everything."