Every time Christian Kirk stepped on the field at State Farm Stadium last season, good tidings hailed from the stands.
Friends, family, fans, former classmates and old high school foes took turns with words of encouragement for the Cardinals’ rookie wide receiver.
It was a perk of returning to the state in which the former Scottsdale Saguaro High School star originally made his name.
“That’s a cool feeling,” Kirk said. “Obviously going to Texas (A&M for college) where at the beginning nobody really knew who I was -- being the kid from Arizona, it does feel a little different. It does feel better.”
The Kirk fanbase may want to arrive early in 2019, because it will have plenty of company. The Cardinals’ local high school star quotient is up to five after the first wave of free agency.
Kirk’s high school teammate, running back D.J. Foster, re-signed last week. Outside linebacker Brooks Reed, who went to Tucson Sabino High School, signed a one-year deal on February 9.
On Thursday, the Cardinals signed outside linebacker Terrell Suggs, the former Chandler Hamilton High School superstar, and backup quarterback Brett Hundley, the mega recruit from Chandler High.
“It’s like, ‘Man, was this planned to bring everyone from Arizona back?” Hundley said with a laugh. “It’s unbelievable, but it’s a cool experience because, since we’re all from Arizona, we know of each other, we know each other. … It’s fun because you’ve got those mutual connections.”
It’s been some time since any of them were in high school – especially Suggs, who graduated in 2000 – but the nostalgia was flowing as Suggs and Hundley were introduced to the media.
Chandler-Hamilton is one of the most decorated high school football rivalries in the state – which Suggs helped kickstart with his prep dominance -- and while the pair hadn’t yet broached the subject, both were up to date on recent results.
“It’s going to come up here soon, especially since they’ve won it the past couple of years,” Suggs said.
Hundley debated how much bravado he was allowed to have, as Hamilton had dominated the matchup until recently.
“I’ve never beaten them, I’m going to say that right now,” Hundley said. “I probably (couldn’t) say too much about the Chandler-Hamilton rivalry – but now I can say a lot. I’m good now.”
Suggs and Reed will become the ninth and tenth players to play all three levels of football in Arizona once they take the field for the Cardinals, joining Foster, running back Mario Bates, tight end Steve Bush, tackle John Fina, tight end Todd Heap, defensive back Kevin Miniefield, offensive lineman Danny Villa and wide receiver Kerry Taylor.
Never before has so much homegrown Arizona talent been together on the Cardinals, and the players realize the significance.
“It’s just crazy we can all go places around the country to play college football and potentially NFL football, and at some point we all end up back home,” Kirk said. “That doesn’t happen for a lot of people. It’s really cool to see all of us Arizona guys making it back.”