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DEEP SIX? If Saints Keep 6 Wide Receivers on the Final Roster, Undrafted Rookie Keith Kirkwood Has the Odds in His Favor

The New Orleans Saints might possibly have a dilemma this year while trying to determine who to keep on their Final 53-Man Roster when they make their final cuts in a few weeks from now, thanks to the uncertainty surrounding 4th year WR Cam Meredith; who continues to recover fully from a surgery to repair a torn ACL that he suffered a year ago in the 2017 NFL Pre-Season, when he was still playing for the Chicago Bears.

Specifically, it's very conceivable that the Saints coaching staff could decide to keep SIX wide receivers instead of five on this year's Final Roster as they normally do; just in case something unexpected were to happen to set Meredith's recovery back in any way.

If — and it must be stressed: IF — the Saints do in fact to keep one extra WR on the Final Roster this year, then it goes without saying that spot likely will go to one of the most impressive players in this year's Training Camp: undrafted rookie and former Temple University star Keith Kirkwood.

(Photo by Michael DeMocker, | The Times-Picayune)

Kirkwood has been one of the most pleasantly-surprising stories of the entire Saints off-season and 2018 Training Camp thus far; after taking an incredible journey to even just to get to this point. He didn't begin playing football until his senior year of high school in New Jersey; and grew up playing basketball and had dreams of playing in the NBA, But after his high school's football coach saw him on the basketball court, the coach suggested he try football.

Kirkwood then spent his first year in college at the University of Hawaii in 2013, before moving back closer to home to play for Temple University (located in Philadelphia) in 2014. After a redshirt season in 2015, Kirkwood put himself on the radar of NFL scouts after he caught 87 receptions for 1,319 yards and 11 TD's in his junior and senior seasons combined. But yet, he still went undrafted.

Now he's currently tearing up Training Camp with his enthusiasm and solid play, but still has the daunting task of impressing the Saints coaching staff enough to convince them that he deserves a possible 6th WR spot over fellow back-up WR's TommyLee Lewis, Michael Floyd, Austin Carr and Josh Huff (as of right now if the Saints decide to only keep 5 receivers, they most likely will be Michael Thomas, Ted Ginn, Jr., Cam Meredith, Tre'Quan Smith, and Brandon Tate, who will get the 5th spot because he is the best kick returner).

It's expected that Kirkwood will see plenty of action tomorrow night against the Cardinals, at WR and also possibly returning punts and kicks as well. If the Saints ultimately keep 6 WR's, Kirkwood has the odds in his favor.

Photo courtesy of Michael C. Hebert

But if they only decide to keep 5, then he appears destined for a Practice Squad invite — assuming that no other NFL team tries to claim him when (and if) the Saints decide to cut him.

For his part, Kirkwood isn't concerning himself with what the Saints coaching staff plans to do with regard to how many receivers that they plan on keeping; and remains focused on the task at hand, which is to keep up the great performance that he's had to put his name into the mix for a spot on the team.

"My whole story is just amazing, and I wouldn't change anything about it," he told / Times-Picayune beat writer Josh Katzenstein in an one-on-one interview earlier this week.

Kirkwood says that the joined the football team for his final year of high school in 2012, and he impressed before even putting the pads on, showing out in a 7-on-7 practice.

"After I had two touchdowns, Coach (Mark Ciccotelli) told me, 'Kid, you could potentially be in the NFL one day,'" Kirkwood said. "I believed him and stuck with what he had to offer."

Kirkwood's first 3 years of college (2013 to 2015) were essentially a wash because of the transfer and then the  subsequent medical redshirt, before he returned in 2016 and had 42 catches for 648 yards and 4 TD's in his junior year, followed by a senior season in which he had 45 catches for 671 yards and 7 TD's.

Photo courtesy of Getty Images

Those aren't exactly the type of numbers aren't that would "blow you away" by any means, but Kirkwood told Katzenstein that he wasn't really trying all that hard to become a superstar in college.

"I wanted to be that player that was smart, very flexible (and) could do whatever the coaches needed to win the game," he said.

Kirkwood also stressed to Karzenstein that he wanted to be an "underrated player that is going to make a name for himself." Katzenstein says that Kirkwood did that to an extent, but he didn't receive an invitation to the combine and didn't expect to be drafted.

Kirkwood told Katzenstin that the "snub" by the NFL Combine didn't bother him much, though, because Saints wide receivers coach Curtis "CJ" Johnson had already called him before the combine to discuss the possibility of joining the team after the draft.

"Just from hearing his voice I just knew he was determined to get me here to be a New Orleans Saint," Kirkwood said. "I knew I wasn't going to be drafted, so I had my mind set that when things all boiled down I wanted to be a New Orleans Saint."

Photo courtesy of Getty Images

Now as the team prepares to face the Cardinals tomorrow night in the Superdome, Kirkwood is hoping that getting to wear a Black and Gold uniform becomes a permanent part of his remarkable journey. 

One thing that's for certain: if the Saints decide to keep 6 wide receivers this year instead of the 5 that they normally do, then the odds are definitely in Keith Kirkwood's favor.....


Big Easy Magazine contributing writer and Saints News Network columnist Barry Hirstius is a 51-year old semi-retired journalist, former New Orleans-area sports editor, and writer previously with several sites that exclusively cover the New Orleans Saints football team. Additionally, he is a recurring guest on a variety of local Sports Talk Radio programs. Barry is also a New Orleans native who grew up as a fan of the team while attending games as a young boy at the old Tulane Stadium in the early 1970’s, originally following and now covering the team for a span of over 40 plus years. And perhaps most importantly of all: he is the Grandfather of two beautiful young girls, Jasmine and Serenity.....

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