Flashes’ former standout on path to the NFL Draft


Kent State wide receiver Sam Kirkland trains in the Fieldhouse on April 23. NFL scouts are currently looking at Kirkland for next season. Photo by Brian Smith.

Matt Lofgren

Sam Kirkland has been waiting for a phone call since he was 8 years old.

But to even get to this point in his life, Kirkland has had to work hard as a wide receiver for the Golden Flashes for the past four years. Now, that hard work might pay off with NFL scouts taking a look at Kirkland for their team.

“It’s been an experience (going through the draft process),” Kirkland said. “It’s been a little bit stressful, but in a good way because I’m kind of anxious and eager meeting with teams and get that phone call from a bunch of different teams.”

Kirkland grabbed scouts attention by tying the NFL combine record for vertical jump at 45 inches during his pro day. When they looked deeper into his numbers, they found a true athlete.

On top of the 45-inch vertical, Kirkland bench-pressed 225 lbs. 21 times, a solid number for any wide receiver. He also notched a broad jump of 10 feet, 10 inches.

Kirkland has been working harder than his teammates, who just finished spring practice, in the field house for the past few months, but for a team he isn’t even on yet. With the NFL draft starting Thursday, Kirkland said he’ll be waiting for that phone call that leads to the best job of his life.

“Obviously I have nothing but time on my hands to sit around and daydream and wonder things like ‘what if,’” Kirkland said. “I’ve been trying to focus on the process and control what I can control leading up to (the draft) and hopefully the day will come faster, but it’s going to be a big sigh of relief because I’ve been through so much these four, five years at Kent.”

Committing to Kent from growing up in Virginia, Kirkland was a standout quarterback at Deep Creek High School. There, he totaled 3,700 yards and 38 touchdowns in his career with his blistering 4.48 40-yard dash speed.

Once at Kent, Kirkland made an instant splash after being red shirted his freshman year. In his first season, Kirkland made a name for himself as a wide receiver after moving from defensive back.

In his very first game, after earning a starting spot against Temple, Kirkland hauled in two passes for 27 yard and a touchdown. From then on, Kent was Kirkland’s home.

“Kent really helped me to mature into a man, from a young 17-18 year old kid coming into college into a mature young adult,” Kirkland said. “The coaching change was a real turning point and a lot of guys could go either way, but I felt like the coaches we had come in, it was a great transition.”

Kirkland ranks sixth all-time at Kent State with 113 receptions during his career. But Kirkland said being an exceptional athlete has really impressed the scouts.

“A lot of scouts have really thought about me because of my athletic ability,” Kirkland said. “I had a down year and we struggled on offense this year. I didn’t have a senior year I had wanted to because I wanted to improve from last year, off my junior year making All-MAC.”

But statistics aren’t everything, and Kirkland knows that his work ethic will pay off in one way or another.

Officially, five different NFL teams have been in contact with Kirkland.

Contact Matt Lofgren at [email protected].