When Christian Kirksey bought his mother a house in Spring, Texas last March, he had no idea he would soon be making the move as well. The veteran linebacker initially just wanted his mom to be near his brother, sister, aunts and uncles who all lived in the Houston area.
A year later, the Houston Texans signed him as a free agent and Kirksey feels the timing couldn't be better.
"It is cool to be around family, to play in front of family and I have a 15-month-old daughter, you know, she gets to be around my mom, my brothers and my aunts and uncles so that's a plus," Kirksey said. "But, you know, I like where the organization is going as far as who they're bringing in. And also Lovie Smith is a legend, in my opinion, and to be able to play in his defense, I think that fits my style of play."
Lovie Smith, named Texans Associate Head Coach and Defensive Coordinator this offseason, brings 19 years of NFL coaching experience and helped lead the Chicago Bears and the St. Louis Rams to Super Bowl appearances. Smith has coached All-Pro linebackers like Brian Urlacher, Lance Briggs and Lavonte David.
Kirksey, drafted in the third round of the 2014 NFL Draft, played six seasons for the Cleveland Browns (2014-19) before signing with the Green Bay Packers in 2020. Now in his eighth NFL season, Kirksey refers to Smith's 4-3 defense as one that is "linebacker friendly." The former track standout feels that his ability to run and to cover will be assets in Smith's scheme, which is driven by its linebackers.
"I feel like that's a part of my game that really helped me become the player that I am," Kirksey said. "You just look at, the guys that played under Lovie Smith's defense, the Brian Urlachers, the Lavonte Davids, the Kwon Alexanders. I feel like those are impact linebackers and you could tell that those are front runners. If you're a linebacker, you should want to play in Lovie Smith's defense if you just see his track record. So just doing my homework on that and just obviously just seeing Lovie Smith in the history of the game, it just gets you excited. It's one of those things where if you're a defensive player, you want to play in his defense. So that really steered my decision."
Last year, Kirksey recorded 77 total tackles (46 solo), 2.0 sacks, two interceptions, four passes defensed, two tackles for loss and two quarterback hits in 11 starts for the Packers.