McKinley was 23 years old when he committed suicide.
One of the good things about being young is you are fearless because you always think you will have “time” to fix whatever issues you are having. On the flip side, when you are young and depressed, the opposite effect happens. You feel like it will never get better and in McKinley’s case even though on the outside he appeared to be fine, underneath there were a lot of things going on.
McKinley committed suicide with a gun he had purchased months before from teammate Jabar Gaffney, who told investigators McKinley wanted the weapon for his own protection.
Detectives also determined that McKinley had spoken about suicide with at least three of his friends, including former Broncos backup quarterback Tom Brandstater. Brandstater told investigators he had lent McKinley $65,000 and that McKinley owed $40,000 in casino markers in Las Vegas.
The 131-page report, which states the investigation has closed, quoted witnesses as saying McKinley was depressed over his second knee surgery in eight months and was worried about how he would care for his toddler son when his football career was over.
Days before his death, McKinley had been ordered to pay $3,000 a month in child support by a South Carolina court. He had told friends he was being threatened with a paternity suit by another woman who said she was pregnant with his baby, according to the sheriff’s report.
Bondarowicz did say that McKinley had taken out a $50,000 loan from another, unidentified party, something that a former Broncos teammate, Everette Pedescleaux, had mentioned to investigators.
Brandstater told investigators that McKinley had a “major gambling problem” and that he told him that he owed $40,000 in Las Vegas. He said the two of them had dinner for 10 straight nights in May trying to “hash out ways to fix it.”
Brandstater said he trusted McKinley to repay him but that his financial adviser insisted that a contract be drawn up and that a copy be given to the Broncos. Part of the pact included McKinley providing the title to his two vehicles as collateral. He said McKinley also gave him two watches, a Breitling and a Gucci valued together at $30,000, as well as a gold necklace to hold as collateral.
I remember my dad when I was in high school told me the three things can be the downfall of men:
Life is hard and we all have been in situations that look hopeless. The reasoning I am bringing this story to light is for young men in any profession to understand that when money comes in fast, the urge is to spend it. The urge is to take advantages of the fame and attention. The urge is to act like a baller and live the fast life that everyone talks about.
You have to fight those urges. You have to think before you react. Being in the NFL is intoxicating even for practice squad players. People treat you different and everything is a little easier— or so it seems.
At 22 years old, I thought I knew everything. Now that I am reflecting back, I knew nothing. I wish someone would have been there to help me.
It is sad that a child will have to grow up without a father because the pressure was too much. It is sad that the signs were there, but no one took them as seriously as they should.
All we can do is hope that in death, McKinley’s story saves lives. If you know anyone or you yourself are depressed and thinking about suicide, please go and seek help.
Because when you choose death, there are no second chances.