His two grades at Fork Union (Va.) Military Academy were an A and a B-minus, and that was more than enough to meet his NCAA academic requirements and gain admittance to Rutgers.
So, when he received official notice recently he was qualified and set to be a Scarlet Knight, he didn't hold back in his enthusiasm.
"I was so excited," Kirksey said. "I already knew I passed because I was so focused there, but there's a lot of relief. I was so excited. My family threw me a big party."
Kirksey, a 6-foot-3, 290-pound defensive tackle, will arrive on the Rutgers campus next weekend to begin his college life.
And he arrives in a much better mental state than when he spent a few weeks in New Jersey in July before learning the NCAA was questioning his academics, which is what led him to Fork Union.
"I learned a lot of discipline," Kirksey said. "Basically, I wouldn't have been ready to go to Rutgers if I didn't go to Fork Union first. Coach (John) Shuman taught me a lot. I didn't know how to study right. I didn't know how to do a lot of things right.
"I was immature, and I'm not any more. Fork Union changed me a lot. I had it in my mind to change a lot, but I wasn't ready to go to college. Now, I'm more than ready."
Before enrolling at Fork Union, Kirksey joked the worst part was going to be cutting off his long hair. The other issue was the early wake-up call.
He left Fork Union in mid-December, and is taking advantage of the extra down time. "Am I sleeping late? No," Kirksey said. "I sleep a lot, though."
The experience not only gave him better discipline and an understanding of what it is like to live away from home (he prepped at Mainland High in Daytona Beach, Fla.), but it taught him time management skills.
And, unexpectedly, the time sped by.
"It went by quick," he said. "Everybody kept saying it would go by quick, and I didn't believe them, but once you get your mind off of it, it goes by real quick."
The fall semester included a fun final moment at the living quarters as he experienced snowfall for the first time. "The last day we had a big snowball fight inside the barracks," Kirksey said. "I don't think coach Shuman knew about it."
Since leaving Fork Union, Kirksey said he hasn't done much running but is doing push-ups and trying to stay in some type of shape entering Rutgers.
"I'm not shape, to be honest," he said, "but I'm going to get in shape."
Rutgers' spring semester begins Jan. 18.