Iowa Hawkeyes linebacker Christian Kirksey (20) holds up the ball after intercepting a pass against the Minnesota Golden Gophers. Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

NFL Draft: Q&A with Iowa Linebacker Christian Kirksey


 

With the 2014 NFL Draft only a few months away, we reached out to some of the draft prospects we believe the Green Bay Packers could target in May. Earlier in the week we’ve heard from Duke’s Ross Cockrell and Rutgers’ Brandon Coleman, and today, we hear from one of the most athletic linebackers in the draft, Iowa’s Christian Kirksey.

Kirksey was a three-year starter at outside linebacker in the Hawkeyes defense. He finished each season as one of the top tacklers on his team, amassing more than 300 tackles in his career at Iowa. Kirksey was a true leader on the field for the Hawkeyes, earning defensive captain honors in 2012 and 2013.

Kirksey was also proficient in pass coverage as a linebacker. In Iowa’s defense, he was often lined up over the slot in nickel packages, and continually demonstrated the athleticism and speed to stick with receivers and tight ends stride-for-stride in the open field.

The former Hawkeye was a standout player at the Senior Bowl down in Mobile, Ala. He impressed scouts with his sideline-to-sideline pursuit and his ability to roam the middle of the field and make plays.

The Packers could use a linebacker like Kirksey in the middle of their defense, and many draft analysts, like Rob Rang of NFL Draft Scout, see Kirksey as a solid day two option in the draft.

Since Kirksey is a player Green Bay could select in May, I reached out to him and he was courteous enough to answer our questions.

Q. Tell us a little bit about your background. Where did you grow up, and what led you to play linebacker for Iowa? 

CK: I was born and raised in St. Louis, Mo., by both of my parents in a household of five. My family and I are very religious. I grew up in the church. My father was a pastor and my mom helped with the ministry as well, so I was pretty well grounded in my faith.

I was always involved with a sport. I loved sports ever since I was seven years olds. The reason why I chose to play at Iowa was the coaching staff and the history of the program. I loved how the program was structured and the people involved in it. Also, I chose to play linebacker because it’s a great position to play if you want a lot of action and excitement.

Iowa Hawkeyes linebacker Christian Kirksey (20). Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Iowa Hawkeyes linebacker Christian Kirksey (20). Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Q. With the college season over, what will the next few months look like for you leading up to the draft? Is there any part of your game you’ll be working on?

CK: Leading up to the draft I will be training at my school and also taking courses leading up to my graduation. I will be working on my footwork and 40 speed. The faster you are the better you play.

Q. Watching you play, you seem like a very versatile linebacker. How would you define your game and what are your strengths as a linebacker?

CK: I would agree. I’m very versatile. I can play all three linebacker positions. I can cover well, play inside the box and make an impact on special teams. My strength at linebacker is my ability to cover wide receivers, running backs and tight ends.

Q. At times you line up near the line of scrimmage, while others you line up over the slot. You almost strike me as a linebacker-nickel back hybrid. How does your ability to excel in pass coverage make you unique as a linebacker? Do you think this ability will help you play the position in the NFL?

CK: The more you can do, the better. I’m unique because I can play anywhere on the field. Being a guy who can play well in space and cover but still play the run physically is an advantage. You wouldn’t have to worry about bringing me off the field in certain situations. I think my ability will carry me a long way in the NFL.

Iowa State Cyclones running back James White (8) gets hit by Iowa Hawkeyes linebacker Christian Kirksey (20). Reese Strickland-US PRESSWIRE

Iowa State Cyclones running back James White (8) gets hit by Iowa Hawkeyes linebacker Christian Kirksey (20). Reese Strickland-US PRESSWIRE

Q. In your opinion, what is the most underrated part of your game and why do you think this gets overlooked?

CK: I feel that the most underrated part of my game is my physicality. I am a very physical football player, but I think it gets overlooked because I play outside the box a lot coming from the scheme we play at Iowa.

Q. The Packers may look to strengthen their linebacking corps in the draft. How would you feel about being drafted by Green Bay this spring? 

CK: I would be very excited! The Packers are a well known program and have a great history. I have former teammates that currently play on the team (Mike Daniels and Micah Hyde). I think it would be great to play with them again.

Q. What kind of player would they be getting?

CK: I will bring a lot of energy and leadership to the team. I’m a hard-nosed, physical, all-around football player.

Q. The Packers play a 3-4 defense and that requires their linebackers to play well in space. How would your athletic ability help you as a 3-4 linebacker? Do you have a preference between playing inside or outside in this type of scheme?

CK: I have great closing speed and play fast sideline to sideline. My athletic ability will help me because I can cover a lot of ground. I can play both outside and inside linebacker.

Iowa Hawkeyes linebacker Christian Kirksey (20). Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Q. If the Packers draft you, what would you bring to their defense, and what could you learn from players like Clay Matthews and A.J. Hawk?

CK: If the Packers were to draft me I would bring a lot of versatility. I would be a linebacker who can cover, blitz, or stop the run. I would learn a lot about the knowledge of the game from Clay Matthews and A.J. Hawk. I would really learn a lot of different techniques and reads from them as well.

Q. Last year, the Packers drafted a pretty good Hawkeye player in Micah Hyde. Iowa is known for producing tough, hard-working players, particularly on the defensive side of the ball. Minnesota’s Chad Greenway and former Packer Aaron Kampman are other examples of this. How will you continue this trend in the NFL and uphold the Hawkeye tradition?

CK: Keep doing the things I was taught by my coaching staff at Iowa. That’s playing with passion and excitement.

Q. Tell us a little bit more about yourself. When you’re away from football, what do you like to do in your free time? Any favorite hobbies?

CK: When I’m away from football I like to do a lot of things. I love music, so I like to write songs. Also, when I have free time I go to the music store and check out some of the instruments. I love going skating and bowling. I’m pretty much a guy who likes to try a lot of new things. I’m pretty outgoing.

Q. Finally, is there anything else you’d like Packers fans to know about you?

CK: Hey Packers fans, something to know about me, I’m a musician. I play the drums, so if you want to hear a good beat let me know. LOL.

 

Career college stats

• 2013 – 104 tackles, 5 TFL, 2.5 sacks, 7 QB hurries, 2 FF, INT, and a fumble return for TD

• 2012 - 95 tackles, 3.5 TFL, 2 sacks, QB hurry, FF, and 2 INTs returned for TDs

• 2011 - 110 tackles, 5 TFL, sack, 2 FF, and an INT

• 2010 - 6 tackles

 

Film and Highlights on Christian Kirksey

Christian Kirksey on GoHawksTV

 

Christian Kirksey’s pick-six against Minnesota

 

Christian Kirksey against Nebraska: 11 tackles, 3 TFL, sack, PBU, QB hurry, and FF

 

Watch more film on Christian Kirksey and other drat prospects at draftbreakdown.com.

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  • Kyle Fellows

    Good stuff as always, Dan. I really like Kirksey. Our history with Iowa players could help make him a great mid round pick for us. He could bring some missing quickness and athleticism our LB currently lack.

    • Dan

      Kirskey would be incredible to get in the third or fourth round. He seems like a Bobby Wagner type player. I would welcome his speed and athleticism at the linebacker position.

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  • JaKa

    This kid is a “GoFor” with Green Bay. Ted Thompson has to go for Kirksey in the draft if he can. Saying that, here’s why: Looking back at the “13 season, the takling displayed by the team at times was just plain unprofessional. Not to say there weren’t any great moments, like Mathews with an already broken thumb taking down a premier running back with that same hand. It took a ton and a half of courage for Clyde to hang on like he did. Too bad for Green Bay he had to go out after that. Kirksey has to have some of the same stuff Mathews is made out of, to come up with 100 tackles a year averaged out during his college career. He’s a true 1st rounder and the D would rule with him alone, not counting whoever TT comes up with for a backfield. I don’t think he’s going after more D-line help with the draft, unless a pure 1st or 2nd round consideration is available late as a sliding steal in the later rounds. With a talent ready to step right in, and his numbers do indicate he was that far above the college level, especially coming from the Big Ten, that shows a lot. I’f be really excited to see him with Green Bay and know this much: If they put a team together with the improvements made so far, then add on a kid with the abilities Kirksey has, the team will be so much better than last year, making for new ranks once again that would put the Packers back in the top 5 NFL teams on the “rank” page. This doesn’t even consider the remianing draft picks TT has to play with.