Bond Goes Beyond Brotherhood For Mike Doss & AJ Kirk

January 30, 2019
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It’s easy to see what Mike Doss has done for his younger brother, AJ Kirk‍, taking responsibility for him at an early age.

What isn’t quite as clear, at least not on first glance, is what Kirk has done for Doss.

Doss and Kirk lost their mother to breast cancer just as Doss’ professional football career was winding down. Kirk was six.

“He’s been with us the last 10 years of his life,” Doss explains of him and his wife, Jasmine.

Doss enjoyed an All-American career at Ohio State, where he was named Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year in 2002 and won a national championship. He went on to play four years and win a Super Bowl with the Indianapolis Colts before winding down his NFL career with the Minnesota Vikings and Cincinnati Bengals.

“Having the type of career I had at the Ohio State and the professional ranks and having a six-year career was a lot of fun, but now it’s just about trying to give him the best opportunity to reach his goals and be successful,” says Doss.

Kirk certainly appreciates what his big brother and his wife have done for him.

“They have been everything to me, honestly,” says Kirk, a sophomore at Dublin Coffman High School. “If it wasn’t for him, I probably wouldn’t be where I’m at with my life. He’s been a big influence on me.”

Kirk was born during Doss’ senior year of college – “the year we beat the Miami Hurricanes,” Doss clarifies.

“He’s always had the opportunity to be around the game, but he doesn’t really remember because he was so young during my six-year career as a professional,” Doss adds. “But he was just a baby, he was just a kid back then.”

Kirk with Peyton Manning

When Doss took him in, it was no surprise that athletics became important to Kirk, whose biological father passed away just before his 10th birthday.

“He’s always had a little bit of an edge to him, just going through the circumstances in his life,” Doss says of Kirk. “I think sports was an outlet for him, being in a team atmosphere, making some friends and being around other kids.”

After Kirk played football a couple years as a youngster, Doss went to sign him up for local program for the following season, but had some reservations.

“We went out there and it was just a little bit more on the softer side,” recalls Doss.

Instead, he placed him on an inner-city squad, the West Mound Stars. Every day, Doss would drive his little brother to practices and games on the west side of Columbus, also known as The Hilltop

“It was one of those chances to show him, ‘Hey man, this is kind of where I came from in my hometown of Canton, Ohio. Being an inner-city kid, it’s a lot of rougher in some of those areas,’” says Doss. “Kids were not even making it to practice some days. Coaches taking kids to practice or staying late to make sure kids had rides home. I wanted him to get a chance to see that it’s not all peaches and cream like it is in suburban America.

“I think that’s where he got the opportunity to see what it’s like to compete and be around some other kids like-minded as him. He was challenged to raise his play to just get on the field. Then, he had the opportunity to help his team make it to a little league championship.”

I think I push him harder than anybody ever can and I think that’s part of the reason he’s been successful at an early age.
- Mike Doss

As a local hero and former NFL standout, Doss was often recognized and was proud to say, “That’s my little brother out there, #1.”

“He was out there making plays, earning the respect of his peers and that kind of started his little following of people thinking he had a lot of potential,” Doss says.

That potential blossomed into Kirk emerging as a top defensive back recruit in the Class of 2021. He picked up an offer from Notre Dame during an official visit to South Bend last weekend to go with offers he already had from schools like Penn State, Michigan, Nebraska, Kentucky, Cincinnati and Boston College among others.

Doss says it’s “a blessing” to be a part of his brother’s recruiting process.

“Ultimately, I think it’s been a good experience for him just to be able to use me as a resource, ask questions,” he adds. “I give him some ideas and thoughts to think about that are outside of the box or the norm.”

His advice to his brother has been to “just to soak it all in,” and focus on being AJ Kirk instead of Mike Doss’ younger brother.

“Enjoy the moment,” says Doss. “Early on, I think he wanted to put the pressure on himself like, ‘I’ve got to be like Mike.’ Ultimately, I just want him to be his own man.

“That is the reason why I’m giving him every opportunity to visit different universities and for sure the five neighboring states; see the Kentuckys, the Penn States, that Team Up North – that’s what we call it in Buckeye Country – and drive off to South Bend, Indiana. We’ll probably take a visit to Northwestern as well.”

Kirk is a smart kid who has done well in the classroom and was impressed with just about all aspects of Notre Dame during his visit.

“He holds overall a 3.2 GPA,” says Doss. “He’s going to be taking his ACT here in a couple weeks. I want him to have every opportunity to be able to make a sound decision for himself and live out his dream of going to college and playing college football as well as college baseball. He’s a dual-sport athlete.

“That’s part of the reason a university like Notre Dame is appealing because players have had success doing that like Jeff Samardzija, Golden Tate. You’ve had guys play at a high-level playing baseball and football at that university.”

Doss is also encouraging Kirk to evaluate the relationships he’ll have with his position coach and the head coach at the school he’ll choose.

“Being able to know the program and not just look at uniforms and wins and losses,” he says. “What kind of personalities do these guys have? Can you play in that kind of atmosphere? Are you ready to be pushed to a higher level?

“I think I push him harder than anybody ever can and I think that’s part of the reason he’s been successful at an early age. He’s been pushed so hard as a youngster, when he goes out and plays on Fridays, he’s able to just go out and react and enjoy the game.”

Looking back now, Doss is extremely proud of what his brother has accomplished just to get this far.

“To lose both of your parents before you’re 10 and to develop into a 16-year-old young man who is having every opportunity to play two sports he loves and potentially have a free college education and ultimately live out your dream, I’m proud of him,” he says.

And being thrusted into the role of a father at a young age, also helped Doss.

“As I retired and dealt with the death of my mother in 2008, taking over the responsibility of raising him helped me more than he realizes,” he says. “That helped me in my life to be motivated to make sure I’m doing everything possible to give him every opportunity to achieve his goals.”

Hearing his older brother say that hits home for Kirk.

“To hear Mike say that I have had a big impact on him, it makes me feel good as a person.”

 
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