Liam Kirk's fitness mirrors top footballers and boxers
Sheffield Hallam University sports science experts have revealed the astonishing athleticism possessed by Liam Kirk - they put the NHL-bound former Steeler up there with the fittest footballers.
The experts subjected Kirk to a battery of tests which would compare in intensity with American sports medicine investigations.
And Kirk's sheer willpower in pushing his body beyond normal tolerance impressed the University analysis team.
Their insight into his mental and physical powers was published in an article in the American sports news platform gophnx.com.
It quotes former Steelers' strength and conditioning coach Danny Mawer, who guided Kirk before and during the Hallam tests.
"The physiologist there, who works with professional boxers and soccer players, said he’d never seen an athlete with so much grit; the ability to dig in and just keep working and working and working even though your body’s telling you to give up,” said Mawer, who has been supervising the Maltby ice hockey player since Kirk was 12.
“We gave him a brief rest and then he picked right back up from where he started so it was amazing to see how long he could keep grinding it out. He just found this dark place and he got comfortable there.”
NHL set-up Arizona Coyotes have signed the South Yorkshireman to a three-year entry-level contract.
The 21-year-old is the first player born and trained in England to be drafted (seventh round of the 2018 draft.)
The article says Kirk arrived in the south western US state on August 28. After skating with teammates he headed towards the prospect development camp which could determine how and where Coyotes will deploy his services.
The winger is aware all of UK ice hockey will be watching how he progresses.
He told gophnx: “I guess there is a little bit of pressure, but I don’t really see it like that.
“Obviously, there is a lot of background noise about me trying to be a trail blazer and create this pipeline so that the next generation has an easier path.
"I want to help them in any way I can by talking to them, by encouraging them, but at the end of the day, this is still my journey.
“There was a point where it seemed like this was so far away, especially when I wasn’t playing (because of COVID-19) and everyone else was, but I just stayed focused and just kept believing and working hard. Now here I am just really trying to live in the moment.”
The article quotes Kirk's long-term girlfriend Alisha Yakub, who said he initially struggled to come to terms with life during the period he was overseas playing for junior ice hockey team in the Ontario Hockey League, Peterborugh Petes
But a series of transAtlantic phone calls put him back on the right track. She said: "I always told him that I was there for him and that I believed in him; that he could do this."