Illustration by Jay Wallace
Growing up on the outskirts of St. Louis, second-year Browns linebacker Christian Kirksey's first love was actually music, not football.
We dove deeper with the second-year Browns linebacker on what type of role music – listening to it, singing, playing instruments – has played in his life.
Kevin Jones: On a scale from 1-10, how good of a singer are you?
Christian Kirksey: I give myself a solid six. I like singing soul songs you would hear in church. I ain't no solo singer, where I just go out there and hit all those high notes. But I can hold my own.
KJ: What age did you start singing?
CK: My two older brothers have been singing since they were little. I didn't find out I could sing until I was a teenager. I sung in front of my best friend, and she told me I could sing (laughs). My go-to right now is singing the national anthem in the shower.
KJ: Are the clichés true about the National Anthem, that it really is an athlete's favorite pump-up song?
CK: : Whenever you hear the National Anthem, you think about when you were little, and you go to the game and remove your hat, and you see the players on the field. And now you are that person on the field. The National Anthem reminds you of how far you came and it's time to crank it up.
KJ: What instruments can you play?
CK: I've been playing the drums since I was 7 years old. My dad Elmer had his own church. There was this guy named Jeff, he played the drums a lot at our church. I just remember watching him play the whole time and falling in love with the instrument, the way it sounded. I played all types of songs. If I find a bucket in the house, I'll find a stick and start beating around with it. My brother plays the guitar and my other brother sings. So we used to mess around after church. When I had off days in college, I would go down to the guitar center, grab a pair of sticks and just jam.
KJ: What music do you listen to before a game?
CK: I'll start with something real chill in the hotel. Gospel music, or Anthony Hamilton, or John Legend. When I get on the bus, that's when it starts getting live. I may listen to K Camp, Kanye West, T.I. on the ride to the game and the locker room. But when I first wake up, I gotta have something chill to relax my mind. During practice I love to listen to rap. Rap music puts you in the zone. Hip-hop gives you some swag on the field.
KJ: Football, family and religion are all big to you. Would you put music in that group?
CK: Oh, for sure. Music is my escape route, man. I used to write a lot of songs when I was little. Football is always my primary focus, but I still have a passion for music. If I got a lot on my mind, music is like my getaway. I put my headphones on and listen to all different genres.
KJ: Are you an iTunes guy or Spotify?
CK: I can go to iTunes, Spotify, Pandora, DatPiff.com, Hip Hop Early. I'm usually on top of all the new stuff, but my boy Kevonte Martin-Manley, who played wide receiver at Iowa, he'll actually text me, 'Yo, Chris, you hear this song?' And he'll send me the link and I'll save the songs. It's always good to have a friend on top of the music game like that.
KJ: If the Cleveland Browns are starting a band, who's in it?
CK: The linebackers, we're trying to come up with an album cover. We call it: Karlos Dansby and the Lobster Tails (laughs). As far as real musicians on the team, Shaun Draughn plays the guitar. I would link with him.