STEVENS: UNM's Ty Kirk Is Multi-Faceted Lobo
Courtesy: New Mexico Athletics  
Release:  10/01/2009
Courtesy: New Mexico Athletics

Oct. 1, 2009

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    Lobo Football
    Lobos at Texas Tech
    When/Where: 1:40 p.m. Saturday, Lubbock
    Radio: 770 KKOB-AM, Lobo Radio Network
    TV: Fox Sports Network
    Online: GameTracker; game story on GoLobos.com

    By Richard Stevens -- Senior Writer/GoLobos.com

    In understanding Lobo Tynell Limuel Kirk, you need to come to grips with some interesting and some contradictory things about this young New Mexico receiver. First, you can call him Ty.

    Ty Kirk came to New Mexico to play receiver for Rocky Long's smash-mouth Lobos because Kirk wanted to -- drum roll, please -- play for a passing team.

    He grew up dreaming about being a hockey player, eventually fell in love with basketball, but might be more accomplished as a track guy -- or as a cook.

    He wouldn't mind being a running back and the next time Mike Locksley's Lobos are in a goal-line situation, Locks might considering handing off the ball to Kirk.

    The part-time Lobo trackster can long jump about seven yards through the air. He has gone almost 51 feet in the triple jump. Give Kirk the ball at the five and his feet might not touch ground again until they are in the end zone!

    If you don't see Kirk playing ball on Sunday in the NFL, you might see him during your Sunday dinner at some fancy restaurant. Kirk's backup plan is to be a chef.

    He has caught as many or more passes in one game than 11 other Lobos have caught in four games.

    First, let's look into this thing about Kirk, a redshirt freshman, coming to the University of New Mexico so he could play on a passing team. What's up with that? Hadn't Kirk heard of Rodney Ferguson or DonTrell Moore?

    Well, yeah, he heard of Long's bread-and-butter backs, but he also heard of Lobos Travis Brown and Marcus Smith.

    Those two receivers had combined for 167 grabs for 2,156 yards while running routes for a young quarterback named Donovan Porterie. The senior at Rolling Meadows High in Chicago -- who caught 37 passes that senior season -- was impressed.

    "Travis and Marcus really interested me and D.P. (Porterie) threw for 3,000 yards and they went to a bowl game," said Kirk. "I saw how they were passing the ball and I wanted to play for a passing team."

    Of course, things change. The Long Lobos of 2007 completed 253 passes for 16 touchdowns. The Long Lobos of 2008 threw four touchdowns. The leading receiver had 36 grabs. It might have been best that Kirk redshirted in 2008.

    "Yeah, we kind of turned into a running team," said Kirk.

    Of course, things change. The smash-mouth era of Long gave way to Locksley's no-huddle, spread. Kirk sees the promise of being a receiver under Locksley`s run-and-gun philosophy.

    "The spread got me excited," he said. "The spread tries to get the ball out to everyone. In this offense, if you are a receiver, you are going to see the ball."

    Kirk saw the ball a lot in UNM's 20-17 loss to New Mexico State Saturday in University Stadium. He also caught the ball -- seven times for 105 yards. It was by far UNM's best production from a receiver in 2009.

    "My coaches are always asking for one of us to step up and be a go-to guy," said Kirk. "I'm definitely a guy who wants to do it."

    The ability locked in Kirk's lean, 6-foot-1, 180-pound body is obvious. He has good speed. He has those good basketball hands. He has hops coming from hoops and track. His routes and on-the-field instincts are improving.

    Not bad for a Chicago kid who grew up wanting to burn down the ice chasing a hockey puck.

    "Hockey was my first interest. That's what I wanted to play," said Kirk. "There was just something about the game I liked. It was fun to watch. But my mom told me it was too expensive."

    With his hockey dreams melted away, Kirk turned toward more traditional American sports -- basketball and football. He liked basketball the best until a coach told him that he might have more of a future in football.

    "I wasn't that concerned with football at first," he said. "I was a basketball player. I had a decent shot. When I first played football, I was a running back. They moved me to receiver because I got taller than everyone else. I like running back. If I was bigger, I think that's what I'd be doing.

    "I think finally by my junior year in high school, I fell in love with football and decided that would be my future."

    That future looks pretty good for Kirk. He leads UNM in receiving with 13 grabs for 152 yards for a 38.0 average per catch. He caught two of Porterie's final passes in UNM's last-ditch drive to tie Saturday's game with NMSU.

    Kirk says his basketball background probably helps him as a receiver.

    "Basketball players have good hands and they have to jump," he said. "In football, you go get the ball like you might go get a rebound. Snatch it out of the air."

    A key for the UNM passing game in 2009 is to find a receiver with the ability to make big plays, big catches. The Lobos have been looking. Kirk hopes they have found their man.

    "We are all trying to step up," he said. "I think we have a lot of guys who have the ability to go over 100 yards. Last game was just my day, but I'm hoping every game is my day."

    Editor's Note: Richard Stevens is a former Associate Sports Editor and sports columnist for The Albuquerque Tribune. You can reach him at rstevens50@comcast.net. Previous articles are available at The Richard Stevens Corner

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