WATCH: Saugus’ Jaelin Kinney went from actor to leading tackler

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As a defensive end, Jaelin Kinney reads a lot of cues. Cues from the opposing offense, his coach, and his teammates both on the field and off.

But the Saugus football player took a different type of cue at age 11. Kinney was a child actor, and he said it has helped him in unexpected ways as an athlete.

“I don’t say a lot,” said Kinney. “But I do speak when the team needs me the most. I think that’s the best thing about acting. You learn your cues, and you learn when to communicate.”

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For about two years, he picked up acting gigs around Los Angeles, mostly in commercials — one of which was for Disney — and short films.

“It was just a matter of trying something new,” Kinney said. “I think it was just something I wanted to give a shot at. My mom said I was a very energetic and very well spoken person so I gave it a shot and I loved it.”

He was able to play both football and act, since football took up only half his time. The two activities are quite the juxtaposition, but both helped him become a leader on his team.

Saugus senior Jaelin Kinney acted in commercials when he was 11 and 12. Photo courtesy of Kelly Kinney
Saugus senior Jaelin Kinney acted in commercials when he was 11 and 12. Photo courtesy of Kelly Kinney

“Jaelin is just a natural born speaker. He’s very gifted,” said Saugus coach Jason Bornn, whose team is 7-0 entering Friday’s game at Valencia. “He’s a leader for us. He’s very charismatic and definitely someone that the kids look up to.”

Playing under the lights on Fridays can be intimidating for some players, but performing under stage lights gave Kinney extra preparation for game situations.

“With acting, the pressure is on you, and with football the pressure is on you,” said Kinney, who leads the Centurions with 37 total tackles and 5 1/2 sacks. “I’ve always been in situations where the camera is on me or people are looking directly at me.

“With football it’s no different. You just get over nerves a lot easier and you’re able to speak to your teammates in a well-spoken manner. And you’re able to encourage and motivate them. It makes talking to your teammates a lot easier.”

Kinney, a senior, wants to go to college for communications, then pursue a degree in law. But for now, he’s using his abilities on the football field and the school’s debate team.

Continuing his acting career isn’t ruled out, either.

“If I could I probably would,” he said. “And I definitely would consider it. But as of right now, I think I want to get through high school and college. And then maybe consider acting in the near future.”

He just has to wait for his cue.

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