He attended Clemson University, where he played for the Clemson Tigers football team from 1979 to 1982. Kinard was a two-time consensus first-team All-American for two years in a row. He was the CBS National Defensive Player of the Year in 1982 and selected to the USA Today All-College Football Team in the 1980s. Kinard is the all-time Clemson leader in interceptions with seventeen and tackles by a defensive back with 294.
His college career did not start smoothly. He suffered a separated shoulder in his first game and was out the rest of the season. He later said that having to redshirt turned out to be a good thing, as he was not physically ready to compete as a freshman.
The New York Giants selected Kinard in the first round (tenth pick overall) of the 1983 NFL Draft, and he played for the Giants from 1983 to 1989. He played his eighth and final season for the Houston Oilers in 1990. In his eight NFL seasons, Kinard played in 121 games, started 115 of them, made thirty-one interceptions and recovered seven fumbles.