When James Starks walked into the press conference room in Alumni Arena on Tuesday night, the young NFL running back's smile was infectious.
Starks, a former Bulls running back who won a Super Bowl two Sundays ago with the Green Bay Packers, was grinning ear-to-ear as he sat down with the media before the men's basketball team took on Ohio University.
After returning to Western New York a week and a half ago, Starks has been greeted with nothing but love from his family and friends.
"I came home, and saw all of the support I had," Starks said. "Even when I was in Green Bay, I saw all of the love people were showing me. It's just [been] nice to be home these last couple of weeks. I've just been relaxing and enjoying every moment of it."
Starks, who didn't play in the Packers' first 10 games, came alive in the playoffs, averaging just over 20 carries per contest and tallying up 315 yards. His longest gain all season came against Philadelphia, when he broke off a 27-yard run, helping Green Bay to a 21-16 victory and gaining the most rushing yards in a postseason game by any rookie Packer in team history.
Although Starks only saw game action for about 30 percent of his team's season, he made the most of his time on the field, and the Packers never lost a game in which he touched the ball.
Despite his success on a national stage, Starks hasn't forgotten where he's come from.
"It's very important [to share my success with my hometown]," Starks said. "Family is everything. Everything I've been through, Niagara Falls and Buffalo have been there 100 percent of the time, backing me all the way and showing me all of the support. That gave me a lot to fight for. A lot of what I do today is because of the community and my family, so it's a big part of my life and, like I said, I'm enjoying it."
Before returning to UB, Starks was sure to catch up with former teammates and friends. His buddies showed him a lot of love upon his return to Western New York and threw him a party once he got back.
Starks was also thrilled to be back on his old college stomping grounds.
"As soon as I stepped on campus, I was driving, and I was like, ‘Man, it feels so good to be back,'" Starks said.
Winning a Super Bowl was great for the former Bull, but his goals don't end there. Although he recognizes how fortunate he is to have been part of a championship team so early in his career, a feat many NFL veterans seldom boast, he refuses to only be considered one of the best backs on Green Bay; he wants to be one of the best backs in the league.
And that, he knows, will come with practice and hard work.
Starks remained selfless throughout the press conference, mentioning how he never got down on himself even when times were tough. He also looked to the future of Buffalo football, explaining that he hopes his success can inspire future Bulls. He specifically wished his younger brother Dale Stewart, who has committed to Buffalo and will be a freshman here in the fall, the best of luck.
"Hopefully [Dale] does [break all of my records]. I'm hoping for the best for him," Starks said. "I pray for him every day; I pray for his decision; I pray that he made the right decision coming here. I know he's going to be loved here. He has a bright future ahead of him."
Starks even mentioned that he isn't worried that the NFL may have a lockout in the offseason, claiming it will just give him more time to get better. Before he gets back on the gridiron, however, he'll be taking some time to soak in the moment.
"I'm still on cloud nine," Starks said. "I'm enjoying every moment of it. It still hasn't hit me as much as I think it will. Like I said, I'm just enjoying every moment."