Nile Clarke Kinnick, Jr., was the son of Nile Clark Kinnick, Sr., and Francis Clarke. He had two younger brothers, Ben and George. His maternal grandfather, George W. Clarke, graduated from the University of Iowa in 1878 and served two two-year terms as the Governor of Iowa from 1912 to 1916.
Nile's parents were devoted to the teachings of Christian Science and helped Nile develop values of discipline, hard work, and strong morals. Nile was reportedly constantly thinking about self-improvement and working on turning personal weaknesses into strengths.
Kinnick began showing athletic aptitude at a young age as well. As a youth, he played on a Junior Legion baseball team with the future major leaguer Bob Feller.
As a sophomore at Adel High School, Kinnick led the football team to an undefeated season, and then he scored 485 points for the basketball team, leading them to the district finals. After his junior year of high school, the Kinnick family moved when Nile Kinnick, Sr., took a job in Omaha, Nebraska. Nile was a first-team all-state selection in both football and basketball as a senior, as he started for one year with his brother Ben at the Benson High School in Omaha. He led Benson to a third place finish in the state basketball and to the city baseball championship.
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