Kenny McKinley and Top 10 Athletes Who Left Us Too Soon

Brian Shannon@bshannon15Correspondent ISeptember 22, 2010

Kenny McKinley and Top 10 Athletes Who Left Us Too Soon

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    Many athletes appear to be larger than life, but even they are not invincible.

    It is always a shock when an athlete passes away at a young age, as was the case earlier this week when Denver Broncos second-year wide receiver Kenny McKinley took his own life at just 23 years of age.

    McKinley played in eight games last season and spent time returning kicks before being placed on the injured reserved list.

    The former South Carolina Gamecock was placed on injured reserve once again this season.

    No one saw McKinley's death coming, a promising player taken too young.

    Here are 10 other athletes who were gone too soon in the past decade.

Adam Petty

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    Petty was a promising young driver on the NASCAR circuit who was killed during practice for a Busch Series race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in 2000. 

    The 19 year old was following a great family legacy within the sport and he was the first fourth-generation driver in NASCAR history.

    Petty's great-grandfather Lee, grandfather Richard, and father Kyle all raced in NASCAR.

    The North Carolina native finished sixth in his first Busch Series race and was expected to race on the Winston Cup circuit in 2001.

Korey Stringer

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    Stringer was an offensive lineman for the Minnesota Vikings who passed away in 2001 at 27 from complications of heat stroke.

    The former Buckeye was the Vikings first round selection in 1995 with the 24th pick in the draft.

    Stringer went to the Pro Bowl in 2000, and was an impact player for Minnesota at the time of his death.

    The Ohio native's death raised major questions about the league's heat stroke preventative measures, and the demands put on linemen to bulk up to well over 300 pounds.

    The NFL has since made many changes to protect against heat stroke, which include training in lighter colored uniforms and the presence of a team doctor at all practices.

Sean Taylor

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    Taylor was gunned down in his Florida home during a home invasion in 2007.

    The 24 year old was the highest-rated safety prospect to come out of college in years and the Redskins made him the fifth pick in the 2007 NFL draft.

    The former Miami Hurricane was a two-time Pro Bowl selection and Taylor became the first player in NFL history to be elected to the game following their death when he was posthumously elected in 2007.

    Taylor had 299 tackles, 12 interceptions, eight forced fumbles, and a touchdown during his too brief four-year NFL career.

Darryl Kile

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    Kile passed away in 2002 at the age of 33 from a heart attack. 

    The former Cardinals pitcher was found unresponsive in his hotel room prior to a game against the Cubs.

    Kile was a three-time All-Star selection who finished his career with a 4.12 ERA and 133-119 record.

    The California native threw a no-hitter while pitching for the Houston Astros against the New York Mets in 1993, and he finished fifth in Cy Young voting in 1997 after going 19-7 with a 2.57 ERA.

Chris Henry

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    Henry was the definition of unrealized potential following his death last season at 26.

    The former West Virginia star was killed after falling out the back of a truck driven by his fiancee during a  domestic dispute.

    Henry was the Bengals third round selection in the 2005 NFL Draft and appeared to have all of the physical attributes to succeed in the league, but he could never keep his personal life in order long enough to make an impact on the field.

    Henry finished his brief five-year career with 119 receptions, 1,826 receiving yards, and 21 touchdowns.

Dan Snyder

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    Snyder was a passenger in a single-vehicle accident in 2003 when he suffered injuries that led to his eventual death.

    The 25 year old signed as an undrafted free agent with the Atlanta Thrashers in 1999.

    Snyder was able to work his way through the minor leagues and he was finally called up to the NHL in 2002.

    The Ontario native finished his young career with 10 goals and four assists in 36 games played for Atlanta.

Pat Tillman

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    Tillman died while serving his country in 2004 after he was killed by friendly fire in Afghanistan.

    The 27 year old left the Arizona Cardinals and enlisted in the United States Army in June 2002.

    Tillman was a member of the elite United States Army Rangers and he served multiple tours in combat before his death.

    The former Sun Devil was awarded a Silver Star and Purple Heart for his efforts in the Army, and he finished his four-year NFL career with 92 tackles and three interceptions.

Nick Adenhart

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    Adenhart was a shining star in the Los Angeles Angels organization when he was killed by a drunk driver last year.

    The 22-year old began the 2009 season as the Angles third starter and he failed to disappoint in his first outing of the season as he gave up seven hits and no runs in a no-decision to the Oakland A's at Angels Stadium.

    That turned out to be Adenhart's last start, as only hours later he was gone.

    The promising Maryland native finished his career with a record of 1-0 and just 18 innings pitched.

Darrent Williams

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    The Broncos have known tragedy before.

    Denver corner back Darrent Williams was shot and killed in 2007 at the young age of 24.

    Williams had been attending a New Year's Eve party with teammate Javon Walker when he was the victim of a drive-by shooting.

    The Broncos second round selection in the 2005 draft played in just two seasons prior to his death, registering 139 tackles, six interceptions and two touchdowns.

    Another promising Denver career that ended too soon.

Dale Earnhardt Sr.

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    One of the greatest racers in NASCAR history was taken too soon when Dale Earnhardt Sr. crashed on the final lap of the 2001 Daytona 500.

    "The Intimidator" was killed in the crash at the age of 49, but not before he was able to win seven Winston Cup titles and 76 races during his 27-year career.

    Earnhardt's wreck in turn four of the track did not appear to be serious enough to cause a fatality but hours after the wreck NASCAR president Mike Helton made the shocking announcement, "Undoubtedly this is one of the toughest announcements I've personally had to make. After the accident in Turn 4 at the end of the Daytona 500, we've lost Dale Earnhardt."