Larry Fitzgerald an idol, then a friend and now a teammate to Christian Kirk

Larry Fitzgerald visited Christian Kirk's football camp when Kirk was around 6 years old. Now they're teammates on the Cardinals. Courtesy of Melissa Kirk

TEMPE, Ariz. -- There's a picture of Arizona Cardinals rookie wide receiver Christian Kirk from when he was around 6 years old at a football camp in Flagstaff. In it, he's in full football pads and he's standing next to Larry Fitzgerald.

It was the first time Kirk had met Fitzgerald. But it wasn't the last.

That picture made its way to Fitzgerald's phone recently, Kirk said with a chuckle. However, if Fitzgerald wants to see the Cardinals' second-round draft pick now, all he has to do is look about 30 feet across the locker room. There sits Kirk's locker.

When Kirk, a Scottsdale native, was drafted by his hometown team in late April, his journey to the NFL came full circle. He grew up watching the Cardinals. Now he's teammates with one of his boyhood idols.

"It's just such a blessing to be able to come and play with [the Cardinals]," Kirk said a couple days after the draft. "Especially with Larry, just watching him as a little kid and idolizing him. Every time seeing him and just always glowing just because how much of an impact he's had on the community and whatnot, and how great of a football player he is.

"Now, I get the opportunity to learn from him and play with him. It's all super crazy to me."

Since that fateful camp 15 years ago, Kirk and Fitzgerald have crossed paths numerous times.

When Kirk was in elementary school, he was Pop Warner teammates with one of former Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner's sons. Warner would sometimes take Fitzgerald along to watch the games and Kirk got to meet the star receiver again.

When Kirk began starring at Saguaro High School in Scottsdale, he got the chance to get on the field before some Cardinals games and stood more than once on the same pregame field as Fitzgerald while the All-Pro warmed up.

As he continued to shine in high school, Kirk's network began to grow. Kirk started meeting people who knew Fitzgerald personally, but it wasn't until Kirk was at Texas A&M that he was given a direct line to Fitzgerald.

Bill Biggs, who specialized in public relations and had worked with Fitzgerald in the past, approached Kirk after speaking at one of his PR classes at Texas A&M. He said Kirk reminded him of Fitzgerald. He also mentioned that Fitzgerald had asked him to pass his number to the budding Aggies star and that Kirk should reach out.

That kicked off Kirk and Fitzgerald's friendship.

"I'm always a fan of kids that come from my city," Fitzgerald said. "I watched him, I watched D.J. [Foster] in high school [at the same school as Kirk] when they were playing. I kind of bounce around on Friday nights to different games.

"I like to support the local kids and to see what he was able to accomplish at Texas A&M, and now being a second-round draft pick for his hometown team, that's the stuff of legend. That's what you always dream about. He's getting to live his dream. I want him to be as successful as he aspires to be."

Fitzgerald texted Kirk throughout college, offering positive thoughts or congratulations on good games. Their relationship continued to grow over the years, and when Kirk was thinking about leaving school after his junior season to enter the NFL draft, he and Fitzgerald talked about the different possibilities. But that's where Fitzgerald's involvement stopped. He let Kirk go through the draft process while offering up advice like "just trust the process" or telling Kirk that he has no control over anything in the draft and all he could do is put himself in the best position.

And then football fate intervened.

Now Kirk can learn from the future Hall of Famer up close. The two share a receiver's room and likely will be sharing a huddle when Week 1 gets here. When the two are at work, Kirk said they're "really working." But Fitzgerald has continued to be more than just a text buddy or just a teammate.

When Kirk was going through the aftermath of an arrest for disorderly conduct and damaging property in early February that eventually led to the charges being dropped, Fitzgerald was there for him.

"He knows I'm a tough kid and knows what type of guy I am," Kirk said. "Just, 'Hey, it's all a part of it.' But he's been good especially with learning everything on the field and just making sure that's where my mental is. It's been good."

The night of the draft, Kirk called Fitzgerald a "mentor." Now that they're teammates, that relationship has grown.

"He's always there for me," Kirk said. "Never would I be afraid to pick up the phone and call him or ask him for something because he's a big brother figure to me.

"So, I know he's always going to be there for me."