ST. JOSEPH, Mo. — Kansas City Chiefs rookie Parker Ehinger grew up wanting to serve and protect his community as a police officer.
It makes sense as an offensive lineman his job is protecting his quarterback.
“I grew up in a small town, but the police officers ran the community so well, they gave back to the community,” Ehinger said. “Serving and protecting the community is a very big part to me.”
The sense of accountability and responsibility that inspired Ehinger’s dreams of a career in law enforcement also motivated him on the football field. The tall, skinny youth from Rockford, Mich., is now a hulking offensive lineman poised to break into the Chiefs starting lineup at left guard.
“I started out playing tight end and I wasn’t very big,” Ehinger said. “I was a tall, skinny guy. I developed kind of late, started hitting the weight room pretty hard, started putting on muscle. I put on 70 pounds in one year.”
The 6-foot-7-inch Ehinger weighed just under 280 pounds when he arrived at the University of Cincinnati. He continued bulking up slowly to 325 pounds, a weight he says allows him to play his best.
“It’s the hard work factor,” he said. “I put dedication and hard work into everything I do, whether it was school in college or football. I spent a lot of time in the film room studying my opponents, studying myself, master my techniques. It takes a lot, it’s a lot of hard work.”
Part of Ehinger’s hard work in college was pursuing a degree in criminal justice. He served a five-month internship with the Cincinnati Police Department to get a flavor for the job of a big-city officer of the law.
“A lot of people have told me, ‘I wouldn’t want to get pulled over by you,’ just me being 6-7, 325 pounds,” Ehinger said.
“You grow up watching ‘Cops’ and all those TV shows, getting a chance to see it first hand, some of that stuff out there is crazy,” he explained. “My mom doesn’t want me to be a police officer. It’s already a dangerous thing I’m already doing. It’s fun, it was very fun for me, very interesting. I like that field and background.”
Police work may have to wait for Ehinger. The fourth-round draft pick is quickly making an impression with teammates and coaches.
“He’s good,” said right guard Laurent Duvernay-Tardif. “He’s really athletic and he’s learning well so far, and I’m looking forward to see what he’s going to do during this camp.”
Ehinger started 50 straight games in college at Cincinnati, playing left and right tackle and right guard. Now the Chiefs are asking him to play left guard.
“I was completely open to it,” he said. “When I was going through the whole draft process, some teams had me projected as guard, some teams had me projected as tackle. I had a really open mind set to it.”
He says he’s comfortable with the adjustment so far.
“When it comes down to it, it’s the little details,” Ehinger said. “It’s footwork, hands, technique, it’s all that little stuff. I have it mentally, it’s just getting that quick switch over.”
His favorite position is left tackle, which reflects Ehinger’s inclination to serve and protect.
“I like left tackle a lot,” he said. “One of my best friends is my quarterback, so I like protecting his blindside. I like that accountability factor, the responsibility protecting his blindside. It was fun being a tackle and getting to play on an island.”
Head coach Andy Reid said rookies such as Ehinger need to enjoy the moment when stepping on the turf at Arrowhead for their first game on Saturday.
“Then you have to see,” he said. “There’s that element of unknown for us that’s part of the evaluation process, How are you going to handle that situation when the lights are on and there are a lot of people in the stands?”
Ehinger said so far there are no butterflies about this making his professional debut.
“We’ll see come game day,” he said. “I remember starting my first college game, I was a little nervous when I started running out on the field, but this will be a whole different animal in the NFL. I’ll just experience it first hand and we’ll see how it goes.”