INDIANAPOLIS — One topic got Christian Kirk talking more than anything else: Kellen Mond.
Kirk, a former Texas A&M wide receiver participating at the NFL scouting combine, spoke at length about his old quarterback, who is projected to start in College Station as a sophomore.
“Tons of talent,” Kirk said during a media session Friday. “I think his ceiling is really high. I think the will to be really good is there for him.”
Mond’s career began last September when starter Nick Starkel was forced off the field during the opener at UCLA after breaking his left ankle. Texas A&M held a 34-point lead at one juncture, so Mond was tasked with cruise control. But the game quickly went sideways; Josh Rosen led the Bruins to a 45-44 win, the biggest FBS comeback in more than a decade.
A&M’s freshman quarterback finished 3-of-17 passing for 27 yards.
“The speed of the game is tough; being a freshman and getting thrown into the first game, thrown into the fire after your starter just got hurt,” Kirk said. “I don’t know if Kellen was expecting to play — obviously you have to be ready — but I can only imagine being a quarterback in that type of game.”
Still, the freshman rebounded. He completed more than half of his passes in five consecutive games, with the Aggies winning four. Even in defeat against No. 1 Alabama, Mond earned rave reviews from national media for his late-game heroics.
A midseason wall eventually dropped Mond out of the featured role, but he figures to be the odds-on favorite for the No. 1 spot when spring camp convenes under new coach Jimbo Fisher.
“He rolled with the punches,” Kirk said. “He played as well as he could, and I love the kid’s attitude. He’s a humble kid and never really seemed fazed by the moment. Obviously, there were some tough times, but we always had his back, and I was always working with him to get him better.”
‘That’s the part I hate the most’
Kirk also discussed A&M’s inability to break through in the SEC West. The program went 23-16 during his three seasons, with a frustrating tendency to fade late in the year.
“That was the story of our season: Starting off hot and then kinda cooling off at the end,” he said. “It was tough. I hate losing. That’s the part I hate most. It’s tough to pinpoint. We went through some injuries and whatnot, but it happened, and I know every game we stepped out there with the intent that we were gonna go in and give it our all.”
The Aggies’ disappointing run had little to do with Kirk. He racked up nearly 3,000 receiving yards and 26 receiving touchdowns during that time. Add that to an outstanding special-teams career (7 total return touchdowns), and A&M had one of the most electric players in the country.
Last week, he announced an endorsement deal with adidas, and draft experts expect him to be one of the first wide receivers off the board in April.
Where to? He said he had interviewed with the Dallas Cowboys, Philadelphia Eagles, New York Giants and New York Jets, among others. But he has a special place in his heart for his hometown Arizona Cardinals, who hold the No. 15 pick.
He attended the same Phoenix-area high school as Cardinals running back D.J. Foster, and has a texting relationship with future Hall of Fame inductee Larry Fitzgerald.
“It would be awesome to be able to go back home and play with those guys,” Kirk said. “D.J.’s a really close friend of mine … It would be surreal, for sure.”