By Jesse Smithey
Fulton wide receiver DaShaun McKinney is getting a second chance at playing college football. It’s an opportunity that a freak injury during a football camp at the University of Kentucky nearly took away.
On May 22, the University of Richmond offered a scholarship to McKinney, a 6-foot-1, 204-pound rising senior. It marked the first scholarship offer for him since receiving one from Austin Peay the spring after his freshman season — and Richmond’s offer came as a relief.
McKinney tore his anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) prior to his junior year, which is often billed as the most important season in a recruit’s campaign to lure big-time college offers. With his health status in question in 2017, McKinney couldn’t be sure if he’d get the chance to play beyond high school.
Those questions have been answered recently.
“It’s amazing, to be honest,” the 17-year-old McKinney said Friday of the recent influx of offers. “The schools that are offering me now, it’s a blessing. They trust in me and believe in me.”
McKinney had a monstrous sophomore season and was sure to be one of the area’s premier prospects heading into the 2017 season. He caught 50 passes as a sophomore for 848 yards and 13 touchdowns, not to mention 56 tackles, two interceptions and eight pass deflections.
But at a Kentucky football camp in June 2017, McKinney caught a touchdown pass at the end of the final day, and that play spelled doom for his junior season. It wiped it out completely.
“At the Kentucky camp, it was the last play of the camp. Coach (Dean) Hood made me go up against one of the best DBs there. I hit him with an out-and-up (route). I caught a touchdown. He pushed me in the back when I caught it. My knee jerked in and out. When I fell, I just felt it jerk. I didn’t know if anything was torn or not. I thought it was just tweaked or something.
“(The Kentucky team physician) couldn’t tell what was wrong. And then they told me (back in Knoxville) I had torn my ACL. They told me I was out six months. I was down for about a week. But after that, my mom, family, trainer and coaches have been keeping my head up. They made me feel like part of the team, even though I wasn’t playing.”
A complication from the first surgery kept McKinney’s ACL from healing properly. A second surgery six months after his first did the trick, though.
Lately, he has posted multiple videos of his speed, agility and strength returning on social media. And it not only has him excited but it also has his teammates and college coaches fired up.
Morehead State offered McKinney on May 29. Two days later, UT-Martin became the fourth program to offer.
“Every time a coach hits me up, they all get excited,” McKinney said. “We have a group chat on iMessage. It’s all my class. When I got my second offer, everyone in there retweeted it and texted me, saying they’re proud of me and ready to get me back.”
Who knows what’s in store for him should he show out his senior season. But coaches and trainers have kept him from overdoing his comeback to ensure he’s properly healed for the season and his future. Moreover, McKinney hopes to drop nine pounds to achieve a 195-pound playing weight for this fall.
Either way, his sister, KeKe McKinney, a former Fulton basketball standout who’s a rising sophomore on the Kentucky basketball team, has been his most ardent supporter.
“She’s been texting me every … single … day, wanting to know how my therapy is going,” said DaShaun. “I went and had a doctor’s appointment today. She’s called me twice. Even though I told her the first time, she still called back again just to make sure she understood.”