Starks packs bags for NFL

1426627-931810886_sm_1400790830_sm_14007908301
The Spectrum

The NFL Draft is the ultimate waiting game. Players around the country count the minutes until they receive that wanted phone call and their name is finally called at the Radio City Music Hall podium.

Former Bulls running back James Starks had to wait a long time to hear his name on Saturday, but after 192 picks, he was announced as the newest member of the Green Bay Packers via the teams sixth-round draft pick.

Starks had trouble finding the words to describe the waiting process.

"It's so hard to explain," Starks said. "I was so anxious, it was like waiting for a football game. You're out there and you want to go hit somebody and you can't do anything but wait. It was hard but it's over with and I'm a Green Bay Packer."

As he prepares to call Green Bay his new home, Starks recognized that leaving Buffalo will be bitter sweet.

"There are a lot of good memories and a few sad ones. But mostly good ones," Starks said. "The community was great, the fans were great- this is my home…My teachers, the students, my coaches- it'll be something I will miss and I'll cherish that for the rest of my life. This is my family too."

After missing his senior season because of a shoulder injury, Starks worked tirelessly to get his body back in playing shape. His work ethic impressed at the NFL scouting combine and the front office in Green Bay.

Packers head coach Mike McCarthy personally called Starks after the pick to welcome him to the team. Waiting to hear his name get called over the three-day period is an experience that will inspire him to work harder and assure the Packers that they made the right decision.

"I was just trying to soak everything in," Starks said. "To me, [the wait] was just motivation and it showed me that even if you're in the limelight, you may not always be as good as you think you are. This draft just made me a little more humble and gave me more fire to work harder."

To pass the time until his name was called, Starks looked for any distraction to take his mind off things. He talked with his family, played cards with his grandma and took walks up and down his street.

If waiting wasn't stressful enough, Starks had countless friends and family lighting up his cell phone to get the latest information.

"I had a lot of people calling me," Starks said. "I'm thinking, man, this could be coaches calling me. But I didn't have a lot of people with me. Mainly just my family."

The affect Starks has had on his hometown has been immeasurable. Known in his neighborhood as "Buck," Starks has always carried himself with class and his success gives the people around him someone to look up to and respect.

"It gives the city a lot of hope," Starks said. "[It shows what can happen when] you do the right things. It gives kids growing up in Niagara Falls somebody to look up to. I try to do all the right things and be a good role model."

After he got off the phone with McCarthy, Starks took his first walk outside his house as an NFL player and saw the reactions from his neighbors.

"Coming out of the house and seeing everybody in tears, not only my family but friends around me just happy to see that "Buck" made it," Starks said. "That made me want to cry right there. I'm blessed to be able to be an influence on somebody's life like that."

Growing up in Western New York may have made Starks more attractive to Green Bay because of the similar climate and weather conditions. Throughout his career, Starks has battled wind, rain and snow on the football field.

Rookie camp begins on Thursday for Starks in Green Bay so he doesn't have much time to enjoy the moment before he has to get to work.

"[The Packers] have a great offense," Starks said. "They have a great line and a good defense. I'm blessed to be in a great situation and help a good team win a Super Bowl. I'm going to make the best of it."

The Bulls' all-time leading rusher ran for 3,140 yards and 34 touchdowns in his career at Buffalo and set a school record after amassing 222 total points.


E-mail: sports@ubspectrum.com