TEMPE — Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Christian Kirk is among a small number of current NFL players who have been drafted by their hometown team.
Before he ever put on a Cardinals uniform, there was already that connection to Arizona.
Being close to family and a familiar environment is an obvious plus for the Saguaro High School product, but sticking around town also comes with its drawbacks.
Kirk doesn’t take his situation for granted, understanding the responsibility he has as not only a Cardinal but an Arizona product.
“There’s a lot of love, but at the same time it comes with a lot of criticism,” Kirk said Tuesday. “You always have the spotlight on you being from here and being one of the rare players that have come through here and have been drafted here.”
That spotlight shines brighter on Kirk as he enters the final year of his rookie contract.
Kirk recorded fewer targets (79), receptions (48) and receiving yards (621) in 2020 than a year prior, but saw his touchdowns double from three to six over 14 games (10 starts). He finished the year tied with DeAndre Hopkins for the most receiving scores among Cardinals pass-catchers and was second in receiving yards and catches. Kirk’s yards per reception also saw a jump from 10.4 to 12.9.
He expects to improve on those numbers in 2021. And with Larry Fitzgerald a free agent and A.J. Green running on the outside opposite Hopkins, Kirk has ample opportunity to take a bigger role in an offense led by third-year quarterback Kyler Murray.
“I would be lying if I said I wasn’t [treating this year differently],” Kirk said. “There’s definitely an extra edge, I have an extra edge to myself.
“I always pride myself on my preparation, my recovery, but I’ve taken it to the next level and I’m doing everything in my power to make sure … I’m at my best this year, so there’s definitely a different mentality for myself.”
– Kirk on the many faces he’s seen come in and out over his four years with the organization:
“It’s almost like an open door, guys are in and out. It’s just part of it. It’s a blessing, too. I don’t take it for granted at all making the team. It’s hard to make a team, a 53-man roster in the NFL. It’s something I don’t take lightly but it’s something you kinda sit back and look at and it’s kind of amazing.”