COLUMBIA — Kenny McKinley arrived here four years ago as a wisp of a kid and a quarterback by trade.
Well, he's put on a little weight in his South Carolina career, and, in all likelihood, he'll leave as the Gamecocks' all-time leading receiver in just about every category imaginable.
Steve Spurrier told McKinley upon arrival he thought had a chance to be a good one. But this? The best one? C'mon.
"Did we think he'd be the all-time record holder? No, I don't guess we probably thought that," Spurrier said this week. "You never know. But Kenny is a very good player who has really learned how to play also. But he's a natural. He's got excellent hands and quickness. He knows how to get open. He knows how to play. He's a natural in there."
McKinley could further cement his legacy at USC with, perhaps, a single catch Saturday afternoon against Arkansas (1 p.m., pay-per-view).
He's just 25 yards behind Sterling Sharpe's school record of 2,497 yards.
A hamstring injury kept it from happening sooner. But breaking the 20-year old record on senior day isn't such a bad consolation.
"I've got a lot of emotions. I've got uncles and cousins and lots of people coming out for this game," said McKinley, from the Atlanta area. "It's my last time in Williams-Brice. Hopefully it'll be a memorable one. I've got a lot of memories here. This is where I started my receiving career."
Maybe that's what's most amazing about where McKinley is: He knew little to nothing about the position upon arrival. Suffice to say, he's a quick learner.
Lauded playmaker Sidney Rice redshirted his freshman year. McKinley did not.
"I had a lot of confidence in myself. I knew I was going to be a pretty good player," McKinley said. "But, never playing receiver, I never thought I'd do the things that I've done. ... I never thought I'd have a chance to break those records."
The yardage record isn't the only one McKinley has set or is chasing as a senior.
Earlier in the year, at Kentucky, McKinley passed Sharpe's mark of 169 receptions. (He's at 181, and counting.)
And there's still a shot he could get to Rice's touchdowns mark (23). McKinley is currently in fourth by himself, with 18 — one behind Robert Brooks and Jermale Kelly.
Also, McKinley's caught a pass in 39 straight games, going back to his freshman season. That's the sixth longest streak in the country.
For two years, McKinley was seen as a nice guy to have around as a complement to Rice. Rice was bigger, taller, faster and flashier than McKinley.
So, it was sort of natural that once Rice left early for the NFL — he was taken in the second round by Minnesota — no one really knew what to make of McKinley.
Could he, at 6-0 and 185 pounds, become a legitimate No. 1? Or would someone have to take that role on, leaving McKinley to hold that less sexy sidekick job?
"Even playing beside Sidney, I had 880 yards (as a sophomore)," McKinley said. "I wasn't in the shadow anymore. I could come out. I thought I did pretty adequate."
Little better than that actually, Kenny.
Thirteen catches in the first two games seemed to set the tone. An SEC-leading 77 receptions nailed that down.
McKinley was an All-SEC selection and Playboy All-American this year.
The hamstring injury that wouldn't go away — it cost McKinley three games and most of the Vanderbilt game — won't make this year's stats look sterling. But this is more about what McKinley's done in four years. His successful pursuit of the record books indicates that.
And, given a pretty nice showing at the Combine, he'll get a shot in to join Rice in the league.
A year ago, McKinley was projected by the NFL's advisory committee as a third- or fourth-rounder. He figures to be about that again.
It's interesting, in hindsight, how McKinley even wound up at South Carolina.
Tennessee was recruiting him some, and Georgia wanted him to come play cornerback. But McKinley began to take interesting in USC when Spurrier's name started to surface in rumor mills to replace Lou Holtz. He wanted to become a big-time receiver in Spurrier's offense.
"He was already committed," Spurrier said this week. "He was a real skinny guy back then. And he's still not real big. But he's definitely big enough to play and big enough to play in the NFL also. We'll wish him the best when this year is over."
But it's not over yet. There's still a record or two to go.
Reach Travis Haney at email@example.com and check out the South Carolina blog at www.charleston.net/blogs/gamecocks.
Notice about comments:
The Post and Courier is pleased to offer readers the enhanced ability to comment on stories. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point.