DAVIE — Miami Dolphins cornerback Torry McTyer may start in place of sidelined Xavien Howard on Sunday against the Patriots.
And every time McTyer gets an opportunity to play, he feels like he's bringing his friend Kenny Keys with him. In July, Keys, a former defensive back teammate of McTyer's at UNLV, died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
Keys was 25.
"I came in from a walkthrough and my phone was blowing up," McTyer recalled this week. "I checked my phone. And it was 'Call me! Call me! Call me!' so that's when I found out. Kenny, whenever you're in a bad mood, Kenny would lighten you up. Whenever I felt bad, I could always go to Kenny and Kenny would brighten up the moment."
McTyer and Keys, a safety at UNLV from 2012-2106, were close. So when McTyer thought about what initiative he wanted to highlight as part of the NFL's ongoing "My Cause My Cleats" campaign, he chose suicide prevention.
"I would say not to hold all of it in," McTyer said. "If you're feeling a certain way, you can always go and talk to somebody. That's the thing that people should know. I can go through stuff. I can feel one way in the locker room and seem one way in the locker room but once I leave here, you never know what people are going through. I feel like if people are going through hard times, that they can always seek help."
The National Suicide Prevention Hotline is 1-800-273-8255. So many people showed up for Keys' memorial service, it had to be moved from a funeral chapel to a banquet hall, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
Among the estimated 300 paying respect were UNLV coach Tony Sanchez and what appeared to be the majority of his players, the Review-Journal reported.
"I was heartbroken to know the passing of Kenny Keys," Sanchez said in a statement, after Keys' death. "It obviously hurts even more when you lose one of your own. Kenny was a great Rebel who played his heart out on the field and was a highly respected teammate and person."
As part of the NFL's annual campaign, McTyer asked that Kenny Keys' name be illustrated on a pair of football cleats. McTyer plans to send those cleats to Keys' family.
Kenny Keys' brother, Kendal, was a senior wide receiver on this season’s team.
"Outside of football, Kenny was one of my best friends," McTyer said. "One of the only people I hung out with. I'm real cool with his brothers. I used to always talk to his brothers. They're doing better. It was tough when it first happened. I gave it some time and then reached out later on to see how he was feeling. And to see if there was anything I could do to help."
By highlighting suicide prevention, McTyer is doing something important.
"I really wanted to highlight the cause in memory of him," McTyer said. "I know that he never had the opportunity to play in the NFL so having his name on my cleats, he kind of reached his dream."
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Kenny Keys, 25, died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound in July