‘Kool-Aid’ McKinstry’s heartwarming story of how he got his nickname

Ahmad Gardner isn’t a household name — but Sauce Gardner sure is. Now another defensive back is entering the NFL with a unique nickname that sparks the imagination: Ga’Quincy McKinstry, or perhaps as he’s better known, Kool-Aid McKinstry.

The Alabama cornerback will be taken in the first round of the 2024 NFL Draft, and with his pick millions will be wondering not just who he is, and what his game is like — but why the heck he’s named “Kool-Aid.”

McKinstry, a native of Birmingham, Ala., was given the nickname “Kool-Aid” as a baby by his grandmother. Not just as young baby either, as he was given the name immediately after birth. The story of the nickname was told to the Tuscaloosa News in 2023. The story goes that Brenda Allen, McKinstry’s grandmother, was handed her grandson shortly after he was delivered, and rather than crying or sleeping he had a big grin on his face that reminded her of the Kool-Aid Man.

“I told his mom,” Brenda said, “‘Look at this boy with this big Kool-Aid smile on his face.’”

Grandma wouldn’t stop calling him Kool-Aid, and the name stuck. It stuck so hard that growing up school administrators knew of McKinstry as “Kool-Aid,” whenever he was being picked up from school, routinely referring to the young boy by the moniker.

That’s not to say he’s never called Ga’Quincy by family — but it was typically reserved for when he was acting up, or to convey the seriousness of a conversation. The rest of the time he was simply “Kool-Aid.”

It turned out to be one heck of a nickname as well, because by the time McKinstry was offered a scholarship by The University of Alabama, the Name Image Likeness (NIL) revolution had just begun, and naturally there was a deal waiting for him that was hand, meet glove.

It’s only fitting when you’re an anthropomorphic jug of ref liquid that you sign an athlete playing for the Crimson Tide. The fact his nickname was Kool-Aid was just icing on the cake. Now he’ll have a shot to shine in the NFL, and he’s a heck of a player.

Despite the 2024 class being generally thought of as lacking top-tier DB talent, McKinstry is an incredible prospect who could be special with a little NFL training. As it stands he’s a natural athlete, with outstanding instincts for playing the ball post-snap. There is some work to be done on his pre-snap recognition, as well as questions about whether he has the consistent deep speed to cover outside receivers and top-tier YAC targets, but at the very least McKinstry projects to a high-level NFL starter who could become more.

So if your team has been thirsty for help in pass coverage, it turns out Kool-Aid really might be the answer.

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