Family man

Tremayne Kirkland doesn’t have to look far for the motivation necessary to keep dominating on the football field.

Tremayne Kirkland doesn’t have to look far for the motivation necessary to keep dominating on the football field.

Every time he makes a phone call, the senior wide receiver sees a picture of his daughter Talyn Kirkland on the screen, and it reminds him why he is awake before the sun comes up to go to practice, why he’s buckling down to master a new role in the run-and-shoot offense, why he sets aside part of his $500 stipend each month and why making it to the next level is so important.

“If you can’t get motivated to feed your kid, I don’t know what your problem is,” Kirkland said. “That’s the ultimate goal to me, to play in the NFL. If I make it to the NFL and stay there, that’s major.”

Even before he had a daughter, Kirkland knew all about parental sacrifice. He remembers his father Wardell Kirkland, a captain with the Sacramento Fire Department, working overtime to send him to football camps when he was growing up in California.

“My dad is a major influence. He is somebody that was in the same position I’m in. He couldn’t afford it with his family life to pursue sports, so he did whatever he could for me to play,” Kirkland said. “I started Pop Warner at nine years old at Grant High School. It’s where Donte Stallworth in the NFL is from. It’s a big athletic area. Ever since then I played quarterback and just practiced with my dad a lot.”

The camps paid off. Kirkland, a quarterback on his high school team at Hiram Johnson High School in Sacramento, eventually landed at University of Nevada at Las Vegas as a wide receiver after visiting colleges including the University of Oregon, Oregon State University and PSU.

“The better schools wanted me to play corner. Because of my size, I didn’t want to tackle. Still being on offense was what I wanted,” he said.

Instead of making the switch to defense, Kirkland landed at UNLV and spent the first season redshirting while recovering from a torn medial collateral ligament and meniscus in his right knee, which he suffered during a high school playoff game.

Kirkland eventually earned a starting job as a kick returner and wide receiver for the Rebels, but a coaching change eventually drew the slender 23-year-old from the desert to the South Park Blocks for the 2006 season.

“Coach [Tim] Walsh was one of the few coaches that offered me a scholarship at quarterback because he knew that I loved the position. Even though I didn’t sign with them, he still always said that if you have any trouble at the school you choose, there’s a spot for you,” Kirkland said.

In his first year with the Vikings, Kirkland led the team with seven touchdowns, was second with 533 yards, and also passed for a 42-yard touchdown.

“When I got here I was surprised how many athletes Coach Walsh had assembled,” Kirkland said, noting that former Vikings head coach Tim Walsh had recruited players from college football powerhouses such as UCLA and Miami.

After a 7-4 season in which the Vikings narrowly missed making the playoffs, Walsh departed for a job as offensive coordinator at Army, and former NFL head coach Jerry Glanville replaced him.

With Glanville came offensive coordinator Mouse Davis and his run-and-shoot offense, and a new role for Kirkland, now a sixth-year senior. Instead of keeping the speedster on the outside, the new coaching staff intended to put Kirkland in the slot because they liked his quickness, hands and smarts.

“He has excellent speed, which is probably his number one asset. He also has excellent feet. He’s getting better and better in the execution of the offense,” Davis said. “He’s a really good kid. He’s one of those kids always ready to smile and add to the chemistry of the group.”

So far, Kirkland has 454 yards and two touchdowns with at least five games to play, including a 225-yard, one-touchdown outburst Saturday against Northern Arizona. He said he’s adjusting just fine to his new role in the slot, though he bristles at his team’s 2-4 record.

“I’m the fastest on the team. Why would I not want to get the throws deep?” Kirkland said. “Then I had to sit back and reflect that I got a guy coaching longer than I’ve been living, times three, telling me that I’m going to have a better chance of getting to the NFL if I move to the slot.”

After six years in school, Kirkland said he’s just four credits away from a degree in social science and 14 credits away from a Black Studies degree.

“I’m trying to see if I can really concentrate and buckle down and see if I can get out of here with a couple things,” he said. “I never thought I’d do that, but I’m trying.”