GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) — Christian Kirk owns the distinction of having caught Kyler Murray's first college touchdown pass, a 10-yarder on Sept. 12, 2015, when both were freshmen at Texas A&M.
But the Arizona Cardinals duo — Kirk is a second-year wide receiver and Murray the top pick in this year's NFL draft — go back even further than that. The two met during a campus visit to College Station and were teammates during a 7-on-7 football event for top high school players.
Now Kirk is catching passes from his buddy at Cardinals training camp, and the two figure to link up for some NFL touchdowns for years to come.
"It's crazy how full circle football is," Kirk said. "That was definitely an exciting moment to catch his first touchdown, the first touchdown that he threw in college."
Kirk was one of the bright spots in the Cardinals' 3-13 2018 season. He caught 43 passes for 590 yards with three touchdowns and added 164 yards as a punt returner. But he broke his foot on Dec. 2 at Green Bay and was lost for the rest of the season.
The injury required surgery, but Kirk was back on the field long before training camp. He's enjoyed taking in new coach Kliff Kingsbury's wide-open offense, elements of which could be found in the college game back before he and Murray became pros.
"It obviously started in the spring coming off the foot injury. Getting back out here in camp and knowing that the real deal is right around the corner," Kirk said. "It's tough to come in here and not be excited. It's exciting to take the field and just get an opportunity to get better."
Kirk got his first taste of NFL success under head coach Steve Wilks, who was fired at the end of last season. He senses a more permanent situation under Kingsbury.
"We know that the expectations are low and we kind of have our back against the wall, but people know the potential as well," Kirk said. "You can kind of tell we're going to have something consistent here and something to build off of for years to come. Now that we have this offense in here, we have Coach Kingsbury, it's been good to be able to dive in knowing Kyler's our starter. It's been a good to just kind of hone in on that."
MADDEN MADNESS: Kingsbury was asked about the low ratings the Cardinals team and players received in the Madden 20 video game, which is to be released Friday. "I had seen a bunch of guys kind of getting in their feelings about their ratings," Kingsbury said. "Then somebody sent me a picture of what I look like on there. I want to get adjusted on looks rating. I look like I'm on 'The Walking Dead' in that picture." Kirk said the game's creators should be ready to change those numbers, a 73 on offense, 80 on defense and 78 overall.
CARDS ADD BRANCH: The Cardinals signed veteran linebacker Andre Branch to a one-year contract before Tuesday's practice. The 6-foot-5, 263-pound Branch played the past three seasons with the Miami Dolphins and appeared in 44 games with 26 starts. He had 56 solo tackles, 11 1/2 sacks, three forced fumbles and one fumble recovery as a Dolphin. Branch was originally drafted by the Jacksonville Jaguars in the second round in 2012. He played his first four seasons with the Jaguars before joining the Dolphins as a free agent in 2016.