“You have to come out here every day with a chip on your shoulder and ready to work,” Kirkland said. “You can’t have too many off days, you have to find some source of motivation, something to get you going every day.”
The source of that mind-set was roughly 6,000 miles away on Saturday afternoon. The son of a Naval officer, Kirkland said it was his parents who instilled in him a strong work ethic and sense of discipline.
His father, Samuel, is stationed in Japan, but Kirkland said his parents will be able to attend his last two preseason games.
“That’ll be cool,” Kirkland said.
Born in St. Petersburg, Fla., Kirkland moved throughout his life between Florida and Chesapeake, Va. He said the movement wasn’t too bad as his father did a good job of making sure he and his younger sister, Shaterra, were able to stay in the same school.
“I learned that anything I need or want in life can only come through hard work,” Kirkland said.
In his senior season at Kent State, Kirkland served as a team captain and finished sixth in the program’s history with 113 career catches. He wasn’t invited to the NFL combine, but was able to impress at his pro day with a 4.47 time in the 40-yard dash.
After Saturday’s practice, Kirkland was one of the last players to retreat to the locker room as he signed autographs and posed for pictures with fans.
“I knew how it was when I was young, looking up to guys like myself now,” he said. “You can take two or three minutes out of your day and make an impact on somebody’s life like that.”