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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Junior Christian Kirk made a 90-yard punt return, bringing his tally up to six punt returns.

In what might have been the last home game of his career, Texas A&M junior wide receiver Christian Kirk gave A&M fans a dazzling performance. Kirk helped the Aggies soundly defeat New Mexico 55-14.
In the second play from scrimmage, redshirt freshman quarterback Nick Starkel connected with Kirk for a 60-yard touchdown to give A&M an early lead over the Lobos.
“Nick just gave me an opportunity,” Kirk said. “I was able to go out there and make a play, but it was there all night and I thought we did a great job.”
Kirk continued to dazzle in front of the home crowd during the first half of the game as the Aggies built a commanding 48-7 lead heading into the half, prompting A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin to pull the starting lineup to start the third quarter.
However, before Sumlin could take Kirk off the field, there was one thing Kirk was able to do — return a punt 90 yards for a touchdown. As he ran down the sideline after finding an opening in the coverage, a penalty flag flew, causing the majority of those in attendance to hold their breath.
Kirk noted in the postgame press conference that he was nervous while he waited for the officials to announce the infraction that caused the flag to be thrown.
“I was pretty heartbroken when I saw a penalty flag on the field,” Kirk said. “Just because we’ve been waiting for so long for an opportunity.”
Nevertheless, much to Kirk’s — and the Aggie Fans’ — delight, his return was not wiped off the board. According to Kirk, he knew the moment the ball came off New Mexico punter Corey Bojorquez’s foot he was going to return it.
“It was good,” Kirk said. “He’s a left-footed punter so we knew he was going to be kicking to our right the whole entire game. Right when it came off the foot — that’s usually when I’m able to know — then he kicked it and I knew that we were going to be able to return it. After that it was just reading the blocks and setting them up and going ahead and finishing it.”
Kirk’s best friend, roommate and teammate, senior Armani Watts, said he was not surprised to see him have the game he did.
“Christian Kirk being Christian Kirk,” Watts said. “He has the ability to do that every time he touches the ball. You never know when it’s going to happen.”
Although Kirk gave no indication whether or not he would declare for the NFL Draft at the conclusion of the season, it is certainly possible for the standout receiver.
Kirk burst onto the scene in 2015 as a true freshman and has since cemented himself as one of best players in the country. During his debut season, Kirk caught 80 passes for 1,009 yards and had two punt returns for touchdowns with 341 yards.
In his sophomore season, Kirk remained one of the leaders on the A&M offense, hauling in nine touchdowns on the season with 928 receiving yards.
As the only wide receiver to have a significant amount of playing time, the A&M coaching staff turned to Kirk in 2017 to lead a young wide receiving corps — and Kirk has done just that. Through 10 games this season, Kirk leads the team in every statistical figure.
However, according to Sumlin, Kirk’s leadership isn’t restricted to the field during games. Kirk’s off the field practices are what allow him to be a leader for the younger players in terms of health and mental preparation.
“His off the field routine, that is a real example to these guys,” Sumlin said. “How he takes care of himself, what he eats — I’m not into the liver smoothie deal, that’s a little rough for me — but he’s looking for everything that he can do to be the best he can be, because he wants to be the best at what he does.”
Sumlin said Kirk is the one player on the team the freshmen in particular can relate to the most, given Kirk’s experience.
“As a leader, as a guy who has been through everything as a true freshman,” Sumlin said. “A guy who had expectations that were off the charts when he got here and has lived up to them. He is the ultimate team guy.”
Kirk and the Aggies will be back in action Saturday, Nov. 18 as they travel to Oxford, Mississippi to take on the Ole Miss Rebels.

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  • Junior wide receiver Christian Kirk’s punt return during Saturday’s game against New Mexico was the sixth of his career.

    Photo by Photo by Kevin Chou

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