BEREA: When asked what he knew about the Browns, linebacker Christian Kirksey never hesitated. The excitement in his voice burst through the phone line.
“Dawg pound! Dawg pound! Dawg pound!” he shouted. “I’m ready to get down there right now.”
The Browns selected Kirksey, a two-time captain at Iowa, in the third round Friday (71st overall). They were apparently higher on him than most draft analysts that projected him to go in the fourth or fifth rounds. Now he could serve as a replacement for Craig Robertson at inside linebacker.
Kirksey played mostly outside at Iowa, but did play inside as an underclassman and believes that is where the Browns want him to play now.
He didn’t run at the combine because of a hamstring injury and only produced 16 reps on the bench press, second-fewest among linebackers. He is considered undersized at 6-foot-1 and 233 pounds and has a reputation of getting stuck on blocks.
But he finished 15th in school history with 315 career tackles, including 104 last season to rank third on the team. The Browns were impressed with his ability to play both inside and outside.
“We cherish a player that can play multiple spots,” Browns coach Mike Pettine said.
Pettine is willing to trade size at certain positions for speed, since it’s easier to get guys bigger in the NFL, but it’s difficult to make them faster. Kirksey falls into that category.
The Browns were also impressed by his teammates twice voting him a captain and awarding him the Hayden Fry “Extra Heartbeat” award, which goes annually to team members who have shown outstanding leadership and dedication throughout the year. Kirksey was one of five Hawkeyes to win the award last year.
He has long been considered a strong leader, traits he said he received from his father, who was a pastor before he died following a stroke before Kirksey’s freshman season at Iowa.
“Since I was little, looking up to my father and seeing the type of man he was and the way he carried himself, he always told me to be proud of myself and be proud of who you are,” Kirksey said. “He instilled a lot in me through church. Watching him and the type of man he was, the way he led his church and led his people, he wanted me to be the same thing.”