Less than 20 yards away from a pair of Heisman Trophy passers, heralded high school quarterback Ricky Town sat in a chair untying his football cleats. The first session of Elite 11 finals wrapped up early Sunday evening in Beaverton, Oregon, home of Nike's sprawling world headquarters, and the 5-star USC commit was already putting together a game plan for the coming days.
Sure, seeing Johnny Manziel and Sam Bradford patrol the sidelines during drills provided the perfect punctuation to an eventful opening day at the national quarterback competition, but Town seemed just as intrigued by the impending arrival of an Arizona standout.
"Christian Kirk is on my list," he said.
Elite 11 finals would be immediately followed by The Opening, a three-day showcase that annually draws more than 150 top college recruits to Nike's campus. Quarterbacks viewed Kirk, an uncommitted 5'10", 191-pound receiver from Saguaro High School in Scottsdale, as a top target on and off the field.
"A big part of an event like this is that you're able to meet really good players from across the country and do some recruiting," Town said. "He's a guy we're pursuing at USC and someone who would be great to throw the ball to at the next level."
Kirk may not have anticipated it when he checked in at The Opening, but defensive backs wouldn't be the only ones pressing him throughout the week.
By lunch time of his second day in Beaverton, Kirk found himself in the crosshairs of several of America's most celebrated young passers.
"I've got a lot of quarterbacks talking to me about maybe playing together in college," Kirk said. "They're all trying. It's cool."
The coveted pass-catcher is one of the most heavily pursued offensive players in the 2015 class. He holds scholarship offers from nearly 40 collegiate programs, and they started to show up during his sophomore year.
He announced 10 favorites from the expansive selection of options in June:
Kirk, rated sixth nationally among receivers in 247Sports' composite rankings, caught 43 passes for 1,003 yards and 12 touchdowns in 2012, adding four interceptions during a run to the Arizona Division III state quarterfinals. He elevated his game and led the Sabercats to a state title last fall, establishing career highs with 65 receptions for 1,183 yards and 17 scores.
Kirk also fueled the championship chase as rusher, gaining 832 yards on the ground. He wrapped up his junior campaign with more than 2,000 total yards and 30 touchdowns, averaging 14 yards each time he took a handoff or caught a pass.
"Christian has the ability to break any play at any time as long as the ball touches his hands," top-ranked quarterback Josh Rosen said.
The 5-star Southern California recruit committed to UCLA in March. He identified Kirk as an ideal weapon in college football's evolving offensive attacks.
"The idea behind the spread offense is to get athletes in space and create matchups that you like with one player against another," Rosen said. "He is definitely a guy who can beat just about anyone. You like his chances in those situations."
Kirk, clocked at 4.47 seconds in the 40-yard dash at The Opening, wasn't the fastest receiver in attendance but may have been the most relentless. He dominated in seven-on-seven competition, running sharp routes and using a solidly built physical frame to fight for position.
Though his success occurred while competing in shorts and a T-shirt jersey, it still came against some of the nation's premier defenders.
"He's an athlete who can move all over the field and make plays," 5-star Alabama cornerback commit Minkah Fitzpatrick said. "You don't see a lot of receivers who can do as many things as Christian, so it makes him special."
Kirk caught six touchdowns in tournament pool play, per Tom VanHaaren of ESPN.
"I really enjoy going up against Christian," 4-star USC cornerback commit Isaiah Langley said. "He forces you to work hard and honestly makes you better as a defensive back. I know the quarterbacks love him."
Kyler Murray probably enjoyed his company more than anyone. Texas A&M fans hope they got an early glimpse of the future, as the 5-star Aggies quarterback commit constantly connected with Kirk for big gains while playing for the same team.
"Kyler is one of my friends, and he's the best quarterback out here I think," Kirk said after a win. "We've taken pretty much every rep together and we have a good relationship."
Unlike other passers, Murray explained he didn't need to state his case for Kirk to come to College Station.
"He's my boy and he knows the deal," Murray said. "I don't think I even need to say anything to Christian about that."
You can see the duo hook up during a nationally televised game in the video below.
Texas A&M is currently the favorite to sign Kirk, according to 247Sports' Crystal Ball. The Aggies claim 74 percent of expert predictions, but that won't prevent other passers from attempting to pull off a signing day surprise.
"It would be awesome if UCLA can bring him in," Rosen said. "I think a guy like Christian would complement the group of receivers they already have and become a big weapon in the slot and downfield."
Rosen and Town weren't the only quarterbacks tempting Kirk to take a closer look at Pac-12 programs.
"I've been in Christian's ear a little bit," Arizona State commit Brady White said. "It's coming down to crunch time with recruiting and these decisions aren't easy, so you want to give guys their space, but I've said some things about ASU. Hopefully he liked them."
New Alabama commit Blake Barnett was also anxious to promote his program.
"I've put a few words in his head about Alabama," he said. "He's definitely getting some good stuff from me about the team and how he could fit in."
Kirk presumably heard plenty of similar proposals from quarterbacks at The Opening. Even though he isn't new to the recruiting game, it was refreshing to talk about the process with fellow prospects instead of coaches for a change.
"It's definitely better to get recruited by your peers because they have the same insight as you and understand what you're going through," Kirk said. "They've been able to figure out what's real and what's fake. You know you're not going to get the same old sales pitch from them, just a normal conversation."
The playmaker plans to narrow his focus to five teams in August before the season starts. He'll begin coordinating official visits at that point, and it's a safe bet his new pals will be following the process intently.
"I'll be interested to see what he decides," said Rosen. "Hopefully he ends up in a UCLA uniform."
Why the admiration?
"Because Christian is just a great player," Barnett said. "He seems to catch everything thrown his way, he gets down the field extremely quickly and he can pick up a lot of yards after the catch. It's huge to have a receiver who can consistently do all those things for you."
Kirk isn't quite as big as some of the other top-rated pass targets in this class, but he refuses to allow others to limit his possibilities at the next level.
"I want an offensive coordinator who is open to me playing every wide receiver position on the field," Kirk said. "When a guy tells me, 'We want you here in the slot,' and they don't plan to move me anywhere else, that's not what I'm looking for. I may not be 6'3", but I can be a true top target who stretches the field and creates problems for defenses."
Clearly, the cast of Elite 11 quarterbacks agree. He's on their lists.
All quotes obtained firsthand by B/R national recruiting columnist Tyler Donohue unless otherwise noted.
Recruit ratings courtesy of 247Sports' composite rankings.
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