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Hometown Return Won’t Distract Christian Kirk

Posted May 14, 2018

Former high school star coming back to Arizona as member of Cardinals

Cardinals wide receiver Christian Kirk on the first day of rookie minicamp.

A crush of reporters surrounded wide receiver Christian Kirk on Friday afternoon, competing for his attention following the first day of rookie minicamp.

The Cardinals’ second-round pick may want to get used to it.

It’s not only the media that will be clamoring for Kirk for the foreseeable future, but everyone in his orbit. That’s what happens when you return to the scene of your legendary boyhood triumphs, now as a member of the hometown NFL franchise.

Kirk has money in his pocket and friends scattered throughout the valley. The 21-year-old is mature, so it’s not like anyone expects him to go off the rails, but the slightest reorganization of priorities can make it that much tougher to succeed in the NFL.

There was a reported speed bump a couple of months before he reached the NFL. Kirk was charged with disorderly conduct and property damage as he left the Waste Management Phoenix Open in Scottsdale on Feb. 3. The case is pending.

“We were aware of this incident prior to the draft,” the Cardinals said in a statement. “We spoke with Christian about it at length and also looked into it independently. Our understanding is that the process will be resolved in the near future but while it remains an active legal matter, we won’t comment further.”

When asked how he will minimize distractions, Kirk stiff-arms any presumption of losing focus.

“All my friends that I have with me, that are close to me, know my mission and what I’m trying to do,” Kirk said. “They let me be. They’re there for encouragement. They’re there for me when I need them. They’re good. They’re never bugging me. They let me go to work and do my business and when it’s time for me to go and hang out with them, they’re always open-armed.”

Kirk is already providing tangible proof. The Scottsdale native could be living at home right now, driving in to work each day. Instead, he’s sharing a room with quarterback Josh Rosen at a hotel next to the Cardinals’ facility, fully immersed in rookie life.

“That commute (from Scottsdale) is a little far,” Kirk said. “I mean, it’s 30 minutes, but driving back and forth is something I didn’t really want to do. I wanted to be with the guys and take in the whole entire experience.”

Kirk’s priorities have long been streamlined. He was talented enough to make the varsity as a freshman at Saguaro High School, but as a converted running back, his blocking was subpar. Jason Mohns, then Saguaro’s offensive coordinator and now its head coach, said he wasn’t making the team if it didn’t improve.

“We talked to his parents, and they said all he did was watch hours of YouTube film of receivers blocking,” Mohns said. “And that’s Christian. You tell him he’s not good at something, he’s going to grind and do everything he possibly can to improve and get better. He just wants to be the best at everything.”

At Texas A&M, Kirk would go out with friends who ate the standard college fare of pizza or hamburgers, but he stuck to a strict diet. After games, he would drink liver shakes, something he learned from professional boxer Andre Ward. His body has been chiseled for years.

“It’s like the first time he picked up a weight, his biceps blew up,” Mohns said.

Kirk looked like a natural at rookie minicamp, effortlessly catching punts and hauling in multiple passes from Rosen. The level of polish to his game could vault Kirk quickly into the playing time conversation.

His readiness is reminiscent of last year’s second-round pick, Budda Baker. The Washington safety was poised and confident when he arrived, and eventually carved out substantial roles on special teams and defense as a rookie.

Kirk’s decision to stay at the team hotel is an indicator of his plan to have a similar immediate impact.

“I think I am 100 percent ready,” Kirk said. “I know that is why Mr. (Michael) Bidwill, Mr. (Steve) Keim, and Coach (Steve) Wilks drafted me, because they wanted me to come in and play and help them win games. At the end of the day, that is what I am here to do.”

Wilks is putting no limit on Kirk, speaking openly of his desire to see the rookie in the starting lineup in 2018.

“I’m looking for him to do something early and often,” Wilks said.

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