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Kenny McKinley, 1987-2010

There are the tragedies you see coming and those that blindside you. We understand by the time we're a certain age that the flipside of joy is pain, the final part of life is death and that we will eventually lose everyone.

But not this young and not this promising.

Kenny McKinley was found dead today at the age of 23. The cause is an apparent suicide, the police say, and we don't know anything else. And for the life of me, I can't make any sense of it.

It was little more than a week ago that McKinley was announced to the crowd at the South Carolina-Georgia game, the all-time leading Gamecock receiver returning to watch the team win one of its most important victories in a long time. I was there and remember trying to figure out which of the figures on the sideline was the Denver Broncos receiver, the young man with such a future ahead of him, the star that would join other recent South Carolina draft picks and make us proud.

And now he's gone. News that I didn't expect showing up out of the nowhere, literally leaving me stunned and at a loss for any way of communicating what I feel. Not just because he was one of the greatest football players in my university's history, but because he was a young man with a future that should have outweighed whatever temporary setback drove him to this point.

For now, all that I have are memories and grief, the latter outweighing the former.

I know that will change with time, that eventually the good memories of his time at South Carolina will be the ones I recall first. But for now, it seems like that will take a very long time.