The rain held off for the most part, and Dre Kirkpatrick’s Football Camp went on as planned at Titan Stadium.
The former Gadsden City and Alabama star, Cincinnati wide receiver A.J. Green, Pittsburgh’s Antonio Brown and the rest of the camp’s coaches led the 300 campers through drills and activities. All three NFL stars hung around and signed autographs for the children.
Afterwards, Kirkpatrick spoke with The Times to discuss several topics. On top of talking about the camp and his 21 Kids Foundation, the 27-year-old discussed being rated as the top cornerback in the league by Pro Football Focus as the best defender against the go route (deep ball). He gave his starting five in basketball from the Bengals’ roster. He also talked about the fake punt that was passed to him in the 2009 championship game against Texas, and much more.
GT: You can tell you enjoy doing the camp. What made you want to start doing it?
DK: Why I wanted to start my camp was just to give back to my community. This has been my fifth camp, my fourth one in Gadsden. You know, at the end of the day, I just want to give these kids inspiration. I want to motivate them. Not with giving kids anything or money, but just giving them my presence because I’ve been in their shoes. I’ve been where they’ve been, and I’m where they are trying to be. Not necessarily sports, because I don’t promote sports. I promote education. And education is the No. 1 thing.
GT: I know you give back in Cincinnati a lot, but what’s it like for you to come home and do it?
DK: Man, it’s great. At the end of the day, I am Gadsden, I’m a part of Gadsden and I want to be Gadsden. For me to be able to come home and get the welcome that I get every time I come home, get the families and fans behind me and supporting me like that. It’s truly a blessing. It makes me realize that I’m doing something right.
GT: Your 21 Kids Foundation, how many years have you been doing it and what do you want to continue to do with it?
DK: I’m going into my sixth year with 21 Kids Foundation. I just want to be building. Obviously, I had a rough start as far as in my career about playing time, so that kind of dampered a lot of things as far as my focus point. But now, you know, everything has kind of settled in with me. I’ve worked on and got my new contract. You know, just the way of the land. Everything is smoothing out for me. I’m just trying to build off the things that I’ve done so far.
GT: I’m sure you saw the report, but Pro Football Focus had you ranked as the No. 1 corner against the deep routes. Is that something you take pride in or was it a coincidence?
DK: I think it was a coincidence, but it’s something I’m going to take pride in because they gave it to me. At the end of the day, I’m not going to turn down nothing positive with my name being brought into it. So I embraced it. At the end of the day, I want to be first in something else — deep routes and plus something else. At the end of the day, I just got to keep working. That’s why I bring guys out here like A.J. and Antonio Brown because they motivate me. Not necessarily (just) the kids. A.J. is my teammate. He motivates me every day. He is a guy that I want to be just like hi m. He’s my role model right now. Antonio Brown, he’s a role model to me. I’m probably a role model to them.
GT: in the 2009 championship game (against Texas), the special teams play when they passed to you. Was that designed and what was going through your mind during that?
DK: It was designed, but obviously the kicker got a little scared. When you got somebody with the way their linebacker was playing. He came at him and shook him up a little bit. If he would’ve threw that ball, I think I would’ve got it. He threw it kind of short and we got an interception, but at the end of the day, I was ready. They made that call and I was hooting and hollering about it all week, and they gave me my call. So at the end of the day, that was the trust they had in me, but I wanted that ball (laughs).
GT: If you had to pick a Bengals’ starting five, who would you go with?
DK: Whoa! It would be Andy (Dalton). He would be my shooter. I’d put him at my streak shooter. A.J. Green. (Running back) Tra (Carson) . I need to get some defensive guys in there. Uh, (defensive tackle from Auburn) Pat Sims in my post. And (linebacker) Vontaze (Burfict). He’d just be the dog. He’d be the one to get everybody going.
GT: I know you’re a big LeBron James guy. What’s he going to have to do to dethrone the Warriors?
DK: He better not go to the Lakers. My thing is, that’s going to be the hardest decision for me to get behind him if he goes to the Lakers. I never really liked the Lakers. But at the end of the day, if he stays (in Cleveland), I feel like they still have enough to get it done. They just wasn’t on. They lost too many games. The game they should have won, they lost it. And when you don’t win the games that you’re supposed to win, it comes back to bite you. And it did.
GT: Who’s the toughest receiver to go up against and why?
DK: (Laughs) I’m going to give you two. A.J. because I have to deal with him every day at practice. I definitely feel like he’s the best receiver in the game. But opposite opponent, it would be Antonio Brown. Me and him has had fist fights and all types of stuff. He just aggravates me on the field; he gets under my skin. He knows what he’s doing. But off the field, he’s a true competitor and he’s my friend. We hang out. We train together. But at the end of the day, that guy is a beast.
GT: Who’s the toughest player you’ve ever had to tackle?
DK: (Steelers running back) Le’Veon Bell. The guy jumped over me. But I didn’t want to say that because I’m giving Pittsburgh too much credit. I don’t want to keep giving Pittsburgh all this credit, but I’m going to give him that. They have great athletes.
GT: As far as individual goals go, what are you wanting to accomplish? You got the contract year out of the way.
DK: Yeah, I got the contract year out of the way. I just want to continue to give my time and give back to the community — whether it’s Cincinnati or here. I hope to finish my whole career in Cincinnati. I hope to put on a green jacket one day. I’m finally getting in a groove and I’m finally maturing on the field, because at this level, it takes time. You can’t just jump out there if you’re not ready. And you got to mature.
GT: What’s the most memorable game you’ve played in at any level?
DK: Wow. NFL, Denver. Playing at home in a game to reach the playoffs and make sure we go to the playoffs. (I had) two interceptions and one to the house on a hall of famer (Peyton Manning). It don’t get no bigger than that.
Article and pictures courtesy of The Gadsden Times