Levon Kirkland

Levon Kirkland

Levon Kirkland
No. 99, 93
Inside Linebacker
Personal information
Date of birth: (1969-02-17) February 17, 1969
Place of birth: Lamar, South Carolina
Height: 6 ft 1 in (1.85 m) Weight: 275 lb (125 kg)
Career information
College: Clemson University
NFL Draft: 1992 / Round: 2 / Pick: 38
Debuted in 1992 for the Pittsburgh Steelers
Last played in 2002 for the Philadelphia Eagles
Career history
Career highlights and awards
Career NFL statistics
Tackles 1,029
Sacks 19.5
Interceptions 11
Forced fumbles 4
Stats at NFL.com

Lorenzo Levon Kirkland (born February 17, 1969) is a former American football linebacker in the National Football League. A second-round draft choice of the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 1992 NFL Draft, he went on to play 11 years in the NFL including nine seasons with the Steelers, and one each for the Seattle Seahawks and the Philadelphia Eagles.

Professional career

Kirkland was a massive inside linebacker, just 6'1" but weighing anywhere from 275-300 pounds during his career. Yet he had great speed and agility for a big man. He became a starter at inside linebacker for the Steelers in his second season, 1993, replacing Pro Bowler David Little. By 1995, he was recognized as one of the top inside linebackers in the league, and had a stellar performance in Super Bowl XXX against the Dallas Cowboys at the end of the season. In that game, the Steelers defense held the Cowboys to just 15 first downs and Emmitt Smith and the Cowboys powerful running attack to just 56 yards, despite losing 27-17 in large part due to two key interceptions thrown by Steelers quarterback Neil O'Donnell. Kirkland had 10 tackles and a key sack of Dallas quarterback Troy Aikman.

That game and his outstanding 1996 season earned Kirkland his first trip to the Pro Bowl and All-Pro honors after the 1996 season. The Steelers had lost their emotional leader, outside linebacker Greg Lloyd, at the start of the season to a knee injury, but Kirkland took over the mantle of leadership. He also took over Lloyd's role in pass coverage as the only linebacker in the Steelers nickel defense. Opponents thought Kirkland would not be as adept in pass coverage as the fast Lloyd, but they quickly found out that Kirkland was just as fast and quick. He had four interceptions that season, a high number for an inside linebacker, to go along with four sacks and 114 tackles.

He made the Pro Bowl after the 1997 season as well, making a career-high and team-leading 126 tackles and career-high five sacks, as the Steelers went to the AFC Championship game (losing to the Denver Broncos). Although Kirkland played well in the next three seasons (1998-2000), the Steelers struggled on offense, and failed to make the playoffs, and Kirkland did not earn any more Pro Bowl berths despite his strong play.

In a surprise move, the Steelers waived Kirkland just before the 2001 season due to salary cap pressure. That year many star players were waived due the salary cap including John Randle, Troy Aikman, and Jerry Rice. Kirkland went to the Seattle Seahawks where he became a leader on the defense and had over 100 tackles. The next year he played his final season for the Eagles, becoming the veteran leader of a defense that ranked seventh in the league and advanced to the NFC Championship game before losing to the Buccaneers.

NFL stats

Year Team Games Combined Tackles Tackles Assisted Tackles Sacks Forced Fumbles Fumble Recoveries Fumble Return Yards Interceptions Interception Return Yards Yards per Interception Return Longest Interception Return Interceptions Returned for Touchdown Passes Defended
1993 PIT 16 75 59 16 1.0 4 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 4
1994 PIT 16 101 70 31 3.0 0 0 0 2 0 0 0 0 7
1995 PIT 16 88 58 30 1.0 0 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 1
1996 PIT 16 113 75 38 4.0 2 0 0 4 12 3 6 0 8
1997 PIT 16 125 94 31 5.0 1 1 0 2 14 7 11 0 7
1998 PIT 16 113 75 38 2.5 3 0 0 1 1 1 1 0 15
1999 PIT 16 107 86 21 2.0 4 2 0 1 23 23 23 0 6
2000 PIT 16 86 65 21 0.0 0 1 0 1 1 1 1 0 5
2001 SEA 16 100 79 21 1.0 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 3
2002 PHI 16 74 53 21 0.0 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 6
Career 160 982 714 268 19.5 18 9 0 11 51 5 23 0 62

Post NFL

In 1996, Kirkland was named to Clemson University's All-Centennial team and was inducted into the University's Hall of Fame in 2001. After retiring from the NFL, he returned to Clemson and earned his sociology degree in 2004 and worked for Clemson coordinating minority recruitment in admissions for the university. He was inducted into the South Carolina Athletic Hall of Fame in 2008.[2] Kirkland also educates student-athletes across the country on the college recruiting process as an Educational Speaker for the National Collegiate Scouting Association.

After coaching linebackers for Wade Hampton High School in Greenville, South Carolina in 2009,Kirkland worked as the assistant head coach at Woodmont High School in South Carolina until November 2011 when he was named the head coach for Shannon Forest Christian School in Greenville, South Carolina.[2] In March 2013, Kirkland accepted a job coaching linebackers at Florida A&M University.[3]

Personal life

Kirkland's wife, Keisha, with whom he has a daughter, Kennedy, died in October 2013 due to lung cancer.[3]

Kirkland's cousin, Devon Still, also plays in the NFL with the Cincinnati Bengals.[4]

Uncle Lamont Kirkland was Light Heavy Weight professional boxer. [5]

See also


  • "Hall of Famer". Clemson World. Spring 2008. p. 7.
  1. ^ "Levon Kirkland Stats". ESPN Internet Ventures. Retrieved 6 June 2014. 
  2. ^ a b "Upstate School Names NFL All-Pro Linebacker As Head Football Coach".  
  3. ^ a b Field, Carla (October 30, 2013). "Keisha Kirkland loses battle with cancer".  
  4. ^ Musselman, Ron (September 15, 2011). "Lineman Still enjoys being disruptive force on defense".  
  5. ^ http://www.fightsrec.com/lamont-kirkland.html

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