TAMPA, Fla. – Christian Kirk's road to stardom hit a speed bump earlier this season, but the Cardinals' second-year wide receiver looks well on his way now.
Kirk had a tremendous game in Sunday's 30-27 loss to the Buccaneers, hauling in six catches for 138 yards and three touchdowns. An ankle injury kept him out for three games earlier this season but Kirk looked healthy and dangerous in Tampa.
"After that big game in Baltimore, I felt like I was hitting my stride, and then the injury came," Kirk said. "That was the most frustrating part. To get back out here post-injury and have a good game, and just contribute to try to help this team win. The most frustrating part is I haven't been on the field for a win yet."
It was Kirk's first three touchdowns of the season.
"That felt good," he said. "A long time coming."
Kirk caught a couple of long bombs and his third touchdown was an impressive display of hand-eye coordination, pulling in a deflected pass for the score. The first score came right before halftime as Kirk caught a pass from 33 yards out. His second was a 69-yard touchdown in the third quarter in which he faked a block and then went screaming down the sideline. The final one was a 15-yarder which gave the Cardinals a 27-23 fourth-quarter lead.
The Cardinals have some impressive skill players but Kirk has often looked like the most electric of the bunch this season.
"He's a dynamic player," Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury said. "Inside, outside (receiver). Works his tail off. Doesn't come off the field. When you work that hard, good things happen to you on Sundays."
It was the first NFL touchdown connection from quarterback Kyler Murray to Kirk, but not the first of their life. They played together for a season at Texas A&M, where Kirk caught Murray's first career scoring throw.
"Christian is special," Murray said. "I know that. We all know that."
Cornerback Byron Murphy played with Kirk in high school and was excited to see his longtime friend have a huge day.
"When he goes out and does that, it makes me want to go out there and go harder, because I look up to him as an older brother," Murphy said.
Kirk may not be seen among the upper echelon of receivers in the NFL quite yet, but has shown that type of ability in only his second season and wants to be recognized in that group eventually.
"I don't play this game to be average," Kirk said. "I plan to, every game that I step onto the field, keep trying to prove that I can be (seen as a star)."