KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Chiefs offensive lineman Parker Ehinger’s family planned for Kansas City’s road trip to Indianapolis last October to serve as an impromptu reunion, with family and friends packing Lucas Oil Stadium to cheer for the rookie starting left guard.
“I had cousins and I had family there and friends,” Ehinger said.
It ended with a scream of shock and agonizing pain. Ehinger ran down field blocking for Tyreek Hill on a wide receiver screen. The Colts wrapped up Hill for a 10-yard gain. Colts defensive tackle Arther Jones rolled off the pile as Hill went down, taking out the right knee of an suspecting Ehinger. The rookie suffered a torn ACL, ending a rookie season that started with such great promise.
“It was tough because with me being a Michigan kid and playing in Indianapolis, it was close for family and friends to come to,” Ehinger explained. “For them to see something like that, it was tough on me just as much as it was them.”
The injury was particularly tough for Ehinger’s mother, Michelle.
“I think it was just really a rollercoaster of emotions,” Ehinger. “I don’t know if she had been paying attention to me exactly on the field at the point. She was kind of asking my brother and my girlfriend at the time what was going on.
“Once she found out it was pretty emotional for her,” Ehinger said. “It was tough for her to go through.”
It was particularly tough given how important Parker’s father, Rick Ehinger, introduced his sons to football. Oldest son Doug is offensive coordinator and offensive line coach at Sewanee: The University of The South in Sewanee, Tenn.
“Our dad raised us to love football,” Ehinger said. “It’s been family and football ever since.”
Michelle Ehinger became a football fan when her sons took up the game.
“My mom’s been a football fan since pretty much we stepped on the football field when we’re four or five,” he said.
Rick Ehinger passed away in 2014, during the summer before Parker’s junior year at Cincinnati. That brought together Parker, Doug and their mom even closer. For Parker, family is everything to him.
“Family comes first and always has been,” he explained. “That’s something I value over everything. We’re a very tight-knit family. We spend a lot of time together and we value that.”
Ehinger said his family, and especially his mother, kept him motivated during the last 12 months from his surgery through rehab and the push to get back on the field.
“She’s a worrier, so she’s been worrying every since (the injury),” Ehinger said. “Since I’ve been healthy and up and walking again, she’s been good.”