Before he was offered a scholarship by Texas A&M, well before his recruiting stock began to skyrocket, Scottsdale Saguaro wide receiver Christian Kirk swung by the Southeastern Conference university his sophomore year and chatted with the coaches.
“The only thing they said was, ‘We just wanted to look at you and we’ll come out in spring ball, and we’re going to offer you,’ ” Kirk said. “They put everything on the table during the home visit. ‘We’re going to let you be. We’re not going to bug you. If you’re ready, you’re ready.’ ”
It made a strong, lasting impression, as the 5-foot-11, 200-pound, five-star recruit on Wednesday announced in front of cameras and a packed Saguaro community center that he’ll play football at Texas A&M, choosing the Aggies over Arizona State and UCLA in the end of an intense recruiting process.
On Facebook: Did Christian Kirk made the right pick?
Kirk, who had more than 1,000 receiving yards and more than 1,000 rushing yards his senior season and finished with a big-schools state-record 103 career touchdowns and three state championships, said he agonized the past few days among Texas A&M, ASU and UCLA.
It came down to those three, as he eliminated USC two weeks ago, and Ohio State and Auburn – his other finalists – lost steam.
“(Texas A&M) was the first school (that he visited) that he left coming away feeling that might be the school for him, and that happened early in his career,” Saguaro coach Jason Mohns said. “He fell in love with it. He built a genuine relationship with their head coach (Kevin Sumlin) and assistants.”
Mohns said Texas A&M wasn’t in the lead the entire way.
UCLA was the first to offer a scholarship to Kirk as a freshman, followed by ASU the same year.
“At the end of the day, at the end of the process, that was the one school that was there for him, and it just felt right for him,” Mohns said.
Kirk calls himself an independent person who doesn’t need to have his parents nearby to lean on during his college career, so he didn’t feel the need to stay home despite a late, hard press from Chandler senior quarterback Bryce Perkins, who committed to ASU last spring.
He’ll see a familiar face at Texas A&M in freshman quarterback Kyle Allen. Allen would throw to Kirk while Allen was going through offseason workouts conducted by quarterback coaching gurus Dennis Gile and Mike Giovando over the years.
“I’m not going to say that’s a huge factor, but that’s bonus to be there and have a guy from Arizona to comfort me,” Kirk said.
Kirk thanked the ASU fans and the support they showed him during his high school career. He sees himself representing the state of Arizona while playing on Saturdays for Texas A&M.
He is graduating this month and will be enrolled at Texas A&M for spring classes, giving him a chance to take part in spring football.
He said Texas A&M wants to try him first at the wide position, replacing graduating Malcome Kennedy.
“Coach (Jake) Spavital (offensive coordinator) said that’s one of the hardest positions to learn, but he knows the football IQ that I have, and what Coach Jason (Mohns) has taught me over these past years to be a smart football player, I feel I’ll have no problem picking it up,” Kirk said. “And from then on, I’ll learn all four wide receiver positions. (Spavital) was as at West Virginia when Tavon Austin was there, and he’d like to do some of the same things with me that he did with Tavon. I’m really excited about that.”
But there was a moment recently when Kirk put things on pause after Texas A&M receivers coach David Beaty left to take over at Kansas.
“I did have to take a big step back and look if that is really the place I wanted to go,” Kirk said. “But after thinking day after day, all of the circumstances kept leading me back to this is where I wanted to be. I talked to Coach Sumlin (Tuesday) night, and he said, ‘If we can get these two deals done for the receivers coach and DC (defensive coordinator), it might change college football and we can make a run for a national championship.’ ”
Texas A&M opens the 2015 season against ASU at NRG Stadium in Houston.
Photos: Is Christian Kirk the greatest player in Saguaro High history?
Scottsdale Saguaro started playing football in the late 1960s, and quickly became a powerhouse. So many great players went onto college and pro success, so narrowing the school’s 10 greatest list was a daunting task. How do you compare the Saguaro players from the ’60s and ’70s, when there were fewer schools and they played in the top classification, to now, when they are producing record numbers in the third tier of the state’s top class competition? But it has been clear that some of the more recently graduated Saguaro players had ‘stardom’ written all over them at an early age. There is a player now so good that he crashes the party. Richard Obert takes a look at Saguaro’s 10 all-time greatest football players: