Once named the “Timber Capital” of Mississippi, the city of Laurel had fallen on difficult times. A once booming small Southern city in the sixties had crumbled to a place with a bleak future and a place that was given up on. The city then began a grassroot effort over the past decade to revitalize and overcome the struggles that were present. As a community, every citizen was counted on to play a part in overcoming this bleak future.
Not given a chance, this encouraging story of the city has been followed by the Media and is also the home to the HGTV show “Home Town”. Just like the city, a native of Laurel has been able to overcome to reach goals.
In early October, the tweet below was made public, along with the news that one Shedrick Kirk, defensive back, had signed with the USFL’s Pittsburgh Maulers from Kentucky Wesleyan. Kirk had reached the next step of his personal coming of age story just like his hometown. Kirk, just like his hometown, had those close to him to thank as he tries to overcome.
Kirk spent the first thirteen years of his life in Laurel before moving to the Nashville area. Kirk's childhood had been spent between two households growing up. Just like Laurel, the love and support was always present in his life when he traveled that difficult path. Kirk was raised by one household that had his grandmother, step father and mother and another house that had his dad and a bonus mom. Kirk was one of twelve children between the two households. Sometimes, those households and siblings were in two different States. There were real struggles but he always witnessed hard work and sacrifice from others to support his dream. Kirk's grandmother and mother worked long hours so they could provide for the children. It was hard work providing for their children but they never stopped. The message was sent to Shedrick. He had to keep working just like his mother and grandmother. He had to work endlessly to achieve more. He fought through the trials and tribulations just like they had. With that guidance alone, it has kept him going when nothing seemed to be lining up.
In the Nashville area, Kirk played high school football at McGavock High School. Not a powerhouse by any means but a solid program. The program had once been the home to Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and NFL player Jaguars defensive back Chris Claybrooks. Not exactly a football factory. Kirk was a no star recruit out of high school. Not on any recruiting boards and if you didn’t follow Nashville area high school football, his name was not recognizable. But just as he saw from his mother and grandmother, it did not stop Kirk. His passion to succeed was noticeable by his coaches that knew him personally. And that passion led him to commit to Cumberland University.
Cumberland University is a NAIA program in Lebanon, Tennessee. With an eye to make it to the NFL, the odds were stacked against Kirk. Going into the 2020 season, the active NFL rosters only had five NAIA athletes. But that hard work trait along with a passion for the game kept Kirk going. The love for the game started at a young age. Kirk would become emotional when his team did not win. It was not because he was a poor sport, it was the fact that he loved the game so much and was determined to succeed. A determination that was evident at a young age. Kirk once lost a cleat in youth football during a play but that did not stop him. Kirk continued the play to score a touchdown. His determination has always been there.
The determination led him to take a chance to move up to the Division II level of college football when Kentucky Wesleyan made an offer to him. The Division II level meant more eyeballs to see his game. It meant a bigger challenge. A challenge that he was not going to back down from. In 2020, the NFL rosters were littered with ninety players from the Division II level. He continued to work on his craft at Kentucky Wesleyan. In his final season of college, Kirk had 5 interceptions. He was second team all conference and was invited to a pro day. Another step was taken. He would be in front of NFL scouts matching wits with Division I athletes. He never heard his name called in the draft and was never given the invite to a camp but it did not stop him. Kirk's dream to provide for his family just as his Mother and Grandmother did for his entire childhood took another forward leap when he reached the USFL. He will be paid for the game that he loves as he continues to mimic the work ethic that his Mother and Grandmother had done.
Throughout all of his steps, Kirk’s trademark has been hard work. A true student of the game, Kirk relished in Special Teams returning punts and has become a true every down Defensive Back. He has taken a liking to understanding his position and has the ability to cover any wideout running any route. He loves being coached to perfect his craft. His nickname is “Tank” and it is evident as he is a willing tackler. “Tank” was a nickname given to him as a child from a family friend, and it fits his game perfectly.
Just as his hometown, Kirk is continuing to march forward with the hope to provide a better life for those nearby. Just as his mother and grandmother, Kirk knows that hard work is essential to move forward. Continuing to be coachable with that work ethic, Kirk knows that the next step is attainable.