Jeff Kinney lettered at Nebraska in 1969, '70, and '71 and was the starting halfback on the National Championship teams in 1970 and '71. Jeff went on to play four years with the Kansas City Chiefs and one year with the Buffalo Bills. This interview with Jeff was done by David Max on July 2nd, 2004. This series of interviews is being done in conjuction with the Bob Terrio Classic on July 15-18.
DM Where are you from originally?
JK I'm originally from Oxford, Nebraska and I grew up in McCook.
DM Who recruited you to Nebraska?
JK Coach Osborne did. He made trips to McCook and Bob Devaney came out on signing day. At that time Coach Devaney was a really popular guy. He was almost like the President of the United States whenever he would come out to McCook. I was a Nebraska fan long before I ever became a player. It was kind of special to go to Nebraska.
DM Were there any other schools that were recruiting you?
JK Yes, I could have gone just about anywhere to school on scholarship. I only went on one other visit to Kansas State because I was playing basketball and we played on Friday and Saturday nights. It was pretty tough to get away. I talked to schools like Texas and UCLA but I just never wanted to go anywhere else. I took the K-State trip because there was a good recruiter there named Dean Pryor and K-State was up and coming. I was considering becoming a veterinarian and McCook was right on the Kansas border and K-State had a good veterinary school.
DM Who was your position coach and what was he like?
JK It was Mike Corgan. Iron Mike Corgan.
DM How did he get that nickname?
JK I'm not sure how he got it but I know why he got the nickname. (Laughs) He was a tough, tough guy.
DM Is there a particular regular season game that sticks out in your memory?
JK There were several games that were pretty important for us. The Colorado game in Lincoln. They were highly ranked and of course the one everyone talks about was the Oklahoma game in Norman.
DM You wore tear away jerseys for that game. Did that really give you an advantage?
JK No, it didn't. It was torn away in the first few plays and it didn't really make a difference.
DM What was Jerry Tagge like as a quarterback?
JK Jerry was very business like and always adapted well to whatever the situation was. We had a lot of seniors on that ('71) team and we all knew what we had to do and we did it.
DM Van Brownson?
JK Van was a great athlete. He had a little different style than Jerry but he was also a team leader.
DM Do you have any "in the huddle" stories?
JK Probably the one that I remember the most is the last drive against Oklahoma in the '71 game. When the drive started Jerry said "You know what we need to do. Let's go out and do it." And we did.
DM You scored the winning touchdown on that drive. What was that like?
JK It wasn't any different than any other drive. I knew there was still time on the clock and I was concerned about the outcome of the game.
DM What was it like after the game?
JK It was a great experience standing out there in the middle of the field with my teammates and running into my dad. He took what was left of the tear away jersey. We knew that we had done something special.
DM Do you have a favorite Bob Devaney story?
JK Yes, I do but none that I can share. (Laughs) Bob was a very special person and he never lost his cool. He took care of his players. We were like family. I do remember one incident where a few of us were doing some of the things that college kids do and it got back to Coach Devaney. The next day he came into the huddle in practice and asked to talk with me and a couple of my teammates. He said that he got this phone call about our activities and asked us to behave ourselves until after the season was over. He didn't have to ask twice. Everything was handled internally and all of the players had the utmost respect for Bob. Whenever he said something people listened.
DM Do you have a favorite Tom Osborne story?
JK Tom took me on a couple of fishing trips when he was recruiting me. We didn't have much luck catching any fish and I told him as a joke "Why should I come to Nebraska if you can't catch any fish?" He had a comeback but I can't remember what it was.
DM What were the practices like in preparation for the bowl games?
JK We usually went down a week before the game. We would get a quick break after finals and then come back to Lincoln for a week before going down to the bowl site. The preparations were very similar. It did make for a long season. My senior year we probably had 12 or 13 games. They did take it pretty easy on us. We were a mature team and we weren't going to change what we were doing. There was a little bit of intensity when we played Alabama because we knew how important that game was to Coach Devaney. It was a game that we really wanted to go out and win because he was special and we knew that game meant a lot to him.
DM What was your best Bowl Game memory?
JK There weren't any real favorites because they all had something special and there was something unique about each one of them. When I was a sophomore we played Georgia and just killed them. Our experience there was that we knew we were a lot better football team and belonged in a better bowl and so did they. The next year we went undefeated and played LSU and beat them in the Orange Bowl in a good game. We were a National Championship team at that point. Obviously, the next year we started off Number 1 and held that all year long. We pretty much annihilated Alabama in the Orange Bowl game. I remember Bear Bryant making the statement that we might have been the greatest team he had ever seen or something like that.
DM You were a first round draft pick by the Kansas City Chiefs in 1972. Do you remember your first year salary and signing bonus?
JK Yes, I do. (Laughs) The signing bonus was $40,000 and my first year salary was $22,500 and I got a $1,000 a year raise every year. I was making more than some of the veterans and when they found out they hired my attorney as their agent.
DM How was the transition from Nebraska to playing for the Chiefs?
JK It wasn't that different. I knew I could play and wanted to play but Coach Stram didn't play rookies. I played a lot during pre-season but when the season started I was behind Ed Podolak and Jim Otis.
DM Do you still stay in touch with teammates that you played with?
JK I do attend some charity events and I'm involved with the Bobby Hohn ALS Golf Tournament that was just played last weekend and see a lot of former teammates at these events.
DM What are you doing now?
JK After I finished playing pro football I worked for an Insurance firm in Lincoln and formed a partnership where we put together a consulting firm specializing in employee benefits. I sold my shares to my partners to go into coaching for a couple of years at the University of Northern Illinois in DeKalb with Jerry Pettibone. Currently I'm working for a firm where I sell income investments to banks, insurance companies, and money managers. I've been doing that since 1986. I did that for a while in Chicago and moved to Kansas City to be closer to my parents and my family.
DM If you had the opportunity to address this year's team before their first game what would you say to them?
JK First of all I would say what a great opportunity it is to go out and play for the fans and experience the tradition that Nebraska has had here for a long time. No other school has what Nebraska has. No other school has done what Nebraska has done. Go out there and just enjoy and play as hard as you can. Don't leave anything on the field and the fans will respect and respond to that.
DM Jeff, thanks for sharing your Husker memories with us.