It might have taken a giant leap of faith to predict Erron Kinney would carve out a nice career in the National Football League. Ironically, it’s less of a stretch that Kinney would wind up as Sherborn’s fire chief.
“I hadn’t really thought about it that way,” said Kinney, 39, who was appointed fire chief in January, and has since made monthly visits to Sherborn. He signed a five-year contract and officially takes over July 1.
He and his wife, Julie, who is from Arlington and attended the Winsor School in Boston, are house-hunting. A town with a solid girls’ basketball program is a priority. Their 6-foot-2 daughter Geanna, is a high school freshman and a promising player. “I’ve looked at Medfield and Natick High,” said Kinney. Both programs have been successful recently.
Kinney played a lot of sports when he was a kid growing up in Richmond, Va. Football wasn’t one of them. “When I was 10, my brother Earl bought me a pair of cleats. So my dad signed me up for youth football.”
His father, Dr. John Kinney, dean and professor of theology at Virginia Union, and Earl, Erron’s older brother by 13 years, played football at Howard University.
Damien Woody and Kinney were teammates at Patrick Henry High School in Ashland, Va. They led the team to the state title. When Woody made a recruiting visit to Boston College, Kinney went with him. Kinney liked the campus, but “Boston was too cold.” So he went to Florida — “they were building a national power” — and played for Steve Spurrier. Woody went to BC and played five seasons with the Patriots in a 12-year NFL career.
Kinney, a 6-foot-5, 275-pound tight end, was selected by the Tennessee Titans in the third round of the 2000 draft. He played six years — all for the Titans — had 178 catches for 1,750 yards and 10 touchdowns. His best games came against the Steelers, including a game-winning TD reception in overtime.
Kinney was one of 30 candidates for the Sherborn fire chief position. The evaluation committee included Scott Boothby, Ashland’s fire chief, and William Miller, Hopkinton’s deputy chief. Kinney had been fire chief in Mt. Juliet, Tenn.
Kinney was a finalist for the Framingham fire chief position last year. “That’s how I found out about Sherborn.”
He became fascinated with firefighting early in life. “It’s always been there,” he said. “I became a junior firefighter when I was 13 in Ashland, Va. I got to hang around the station and do small stuff. I read books and wrote stories [he was editor of his high school paper] about firefighters. I loved the big red trucks that made a lot of noise.”
Toy fire trucks were the only Christmas or birthday gifts he wished for.
Whether it’s around his wife’s home town of Arlington or the western suburbs, Kinney will stop and visit any fire station he sees. “Sherborn is an opportunity to use the things I’ve learned,” he said. “I’ve been trying to [relocate] to New England for years. Sherborn is gorgeous. The people have been welcoming. I’m excited.”
Kinney’s relationship with football wasn’t a smooth one. “The NFL wasn’t on my radar. I was preparing to be a firefighter or a teacher.” Kinney said got more out of his time at Florida playing two seasons for basketball coach Billy Donovan, now the coach of the Oklahoma City Thunder. “Honestly, if it weren’t for him I wouldn’t have made it to the NFL,” said Kinney.
He related to Donovan’s style more than to the football staff’s. Even though Kinney was a bench player, “Billy believed in me,” said Kinney. “I was the defensive energy guy, doing the dirty work.”
He wasn’t NBA-bound, though, and a football career seemed doubtful. “He wasn’t looking at the NFL at all,” said Julie, who enjoyed tailgating at Gainesville more than the games. Kinney did play in a couple of all-star games and in the Senior Bowl. He certainly had the size. Some team might bite. The Titans took him in the third round of the 2000 NFL Draft.
Despite the dicey winters, Kinney now revels in the Boston area, particularly quaint western suburbs like Sherborn.
Lenny Megliola can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.