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Thursday, May 30, 2013
Early attention nothing new for WR Kirk

By Erik McKinney

Christian Kirk has always been ahead of schedule.

This spring, the Scottsdale (Ariz.) Saguaro sophomore went toe-to-toe with the West region's top juniors on the field and on the recruiting trail. But that's nothing new for the 5-foot-10, 190-pound wide receiver.

Kirk began playing football at 5 years old, but don't tell that to the administrators of the league he played for.

"My dad signed me up for football, but he changed my birth certificate so I could play early," Kirk said. "I was five, playing against kids who were seven and eight. By the time I got to fourth grade, I was playing against seventh- and eighth-graders."

Football was the final sports option for Kirk, who began his athletic career playing baseball but was quickly pulled out because he was bored with it. Basketball was the next option, but that ended quickly as well.

"I was playing defense and I was very physical," Kirk said. "I started tackling people."

So football it was.

It seems comical now, but during the first two years of his football career Kirk played offensive and defensive tackle. It was a throwaway play at the end of his second season that sent him on his way.

"We were up by a lot and my coach put me in at running back," Kirk said. "On the first play, I took it all the way to the end zone and I was outrunning everybody. They put me in the backfield then and that's where I stayed all the way through eighth grade."

Another position switch was necessary when Kirk arrived at Saguaro because the backfield was crowded by D.J. Foster, an Arizona State signee in the 2012 class. The coaches moved Kirk to wide receiver in order to get him on the field, and as usual, Kirk wasted no time making an impact. As a freshman, he caught 34 passes for 589 yards and six touchdowns, and his new position became permanent. He upped his production during his sophomore season to 43 receptions for 1,003 yards and 12 touchdowns, and chipped in 166 rushing yards and three more touchdowns, a pass completion for a 27-yard score, and 23 tackles and four interceptions on defense. He also authored an 89-yard punt return touchdown.

But even with that outstanding season, Kirk wasn't completely prepared for what this past spring would bring. Arizona and UCLA were the first two schools to offer, at the close of his sophomore season. Oregon State and Wisconsin offered in March, then Cal and Tennessee entered the picture prior to spring ball. That's when things really got crazy.

"I knew recruiting would come and that coaches would come down," Kirk said. "People were saying that by the time spring ball ended, I could have over 20 offers, and at first I didn't believe that."

Kirk believes it now, however, as a dozen offers flew in during spring ball, and he now sits at 18. But it isn't just any 18 offers he's collected. This is an assortment of some of the top programs in the country, including Florida State, Michigan State, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Tennessee, Texas A&M and Wisconsin. He said Oregon, Michigan, Stanford and USC are all showing interest as well.

The biggest surprise for Kirk was the early interest from the SEC and ACC, as well as how the offers came in bunches, rather than one at a time. It caught him and his parents off-guard, but he continues to push hard to pay back everyone who has put time and effort into his career.

"They've all chipped in and contributed," Kirk said. "There were seasons where we couldn't pay for me to sign up and my aunt had to pay for the season. I'm grateful for everything everybody has done for me."

Now, Kirk is focusing some attention on the next level. He took an unofficial visit to Texas A&M this spring with his parents, and though he doesn't have any other trips planned at this time, that one gave the family a taste of how big they are to the process.

"We talked about unofficials and how they are just as important as the official visits," Kirk said. "There's just as much information and it's not like it's just a little taste. They're really important, so I want to make sure to bring my parents on every visit. They can ask questions that I don't think of -- especially my mom, who is totally into the academic side. I'm going to take as many unofficial visits as I can to see where I feel the most comfortable."

He listed Cal, Michigan, Michigan State, Notre Dame, Ohio State and UCLA as possible unofficial visit destinations.

The recruiting process isn't close to being finished for Kirk, as a number of schools will still likely join the race for the talented athlete. Somewhat surprisingly, Kirk said he will likely wait until late into his senior year to announce his commitment, adding that he would like to do it either at an All-American game or on signing day on ESPNU. It isn't surprising that Kirk will be one of the more anticipated announcements of his class -- only that he's finally found something where he doesn't need to be ahead of schedule.