By John Ingoldsby, Player Engagement Insider
Former Tennessee Titan Erron Kinney received a much warmer welcome this month in Massachusetts than he did on a 2004 visit to the Bay State.
Thirteen years ago, the tight end played in the legendary “Cold Bowl” loss to the New England Patriots in famously frigid temperatures on a Saturday night at Gillette Stadium. But, just a few towns over from Foxborough on July 4th weekend, he was a whole lot warmer both inside and out when he became fire chief for the town of Sherborn.
“Ever since I was a little boy, I have had a passion for firefighting after it was the first book I was ever given,” said the no-longer little 6’5” and 275-pound Kinney, who’s first weekend as chief featured a parade.
“It went off without a hitch, and went right down Main Street on the Fourth, and then was followed by family activities, so it was a great way to start,” said the father of four while speaking in his new firehouse office, flanked by his impressive glass-encased collection of miniature fire trucks and other collectibles he has grown since childhood.
A start that was many years in the making both in football and firefighting.
“I have certainly had an atypical career, beginning with seven years in the NFL and also various firefighting jobs leading up to Sherborn,” said the Ashland, Virginia native.
“My seven years with the Titans provided me with exposure on a tremendous platform, and receiving the training and education of an NFL player was enormous,” Kinney said. “I have no regrets, and just wish it could have ended on my own terms rather than having to retire due to injury in 2008.”
But before Tennessee, he also had success down south as a member of the University of Florida’s 1996 national championship team under head coach Steve Spurrier.
“Being a Gator went well for me since I got to the NFL and learned how to work with coaching and be a man, so it was a real proving ground,” reminisced Kinney, adding that he also met his wife of 16 years while in Gainesville.
Along the way, he continued his education in fire safety.
“I have served as a volunteer firefighter, and later became a captain in Charleston, South Carolina, and then got my first job as fire chief in 2013 in Mt. Juliet, Tennessee,” Kinney said.
All of which led to him now living his dream before turning 40, which he will in a few weeks to cap off this milestone month.
“My first few weeks here have been good and I hit the ground running, but there is a lot of information and some subtle differences, so certainly a learning curve,” explained Kinney, who spent one week per month since February in Sherborn getting acclimated. “The job is still the job, but I have a strong group of about 60 firefighters and EMTs, so we have had a few routine calls and I have been able to see our personnel work and do a good job, so I am excited for what’s ahead.”
Busy times to be sure, but when he isn’t working, he is a devoted father and family man.
“I have two daughters and two sons, which is just awesome, and being a father of four constantly resets what is important for me,” Kinney said. “I honestly don’t know what I would do without kids since they bring me so much joy, and I just love being a dad.”
That enjoyment goes back to his NFL days.
“My wife and kids have always been my biggest cheerleaders, and they would always cheer Daddy on and were looking for a hug from me after games, plus I loved looking up in the stands and seeing their smiles,” Kinney said.
Despite his demanding NFL schedule back then, he always found time for family.
“I would do pick-ups from daycare on my Tuesday off-days, and I loved that, and we would also do family dinners, movies, and play video games together during the week, so I was an active Dad,” Kinney said.
“During the offseason, we loved being outdoors, going to the beach, catching crawdads in creeks, landing some big ones fishing, and still watching movies and TV together,” he noted. “Then as they got older, I coached some sports like flag football and basketball, and my oldest plays high school girls’ basketball.”
He added that he believes he has passed on his love of football to his kids.
“They still see all of my memorabilia as a reminder, but also I passed along the importance of sacrifice and commitment, proving that if you paid your dues through energy and effort, you get to where you want to be,” stated Kinney, adding that he believes his children now have a healthy respect for professionals.
Lessons well learned, but also well taught.
“They saw my hard work, obviously, and saw how to stand up in the face of adversity to understand perseverance, but most importantly they learned how to be prepared and compete with class,” Kinney said. “So far this summer, in addition to continuing our outdoor activities, I am helping with the transition of moving here.”
A massive transition for the Kinney family as they warm up to Massachusetts, and for the new fire chief as his new life begins at 40.
John Ingoldsby is the President and Founder of IIR Sports, Inc., (a sports media firm based in Boston. He has covered the NFL throughout his career that began as a newspaper reporter/editor, which includes articles in Bloomberg BusinessWeek magazine (NFL Player Engagement), London-based Financial Times newspaper (NFL's international strategy), the Philadelphia Daily News (annual NFC Coaches Breakfast) and the Boston Globe (Seattle Seahawks Coach Pete Carroll).