Niagara Gazette

Opinion

February 5, 2011

Starks is Super

NIAGARA FALLS — It doesn’t seem that long ago we were cheering on Niagara Falls High School football star James Starks as he piled up yardage in our very own backyard — Sal Maglie Stadium.

A few years later, the backyard moved a bit, but Starks crowned his college years by setting a University at Buffalo career rushing record with 3,140 yards.

The community winced when Starks — then projected to be a possible second- or third-round pick in the NFL Draft — went down with a shoulder tear and missed his entire senior year at UB.

Suddenly, his future in football seemed in jeopardy.

But the man affectionately known in his hometown as “Buck” persevered and refused to give up on his dream.

The end result is something Hollywood couldn’t have scripted any better.

The Green Bay Packers took a chance on Starks in the sixth round and, after the 24-year-old spent most of his rookie season out with a torn hamstring, he scored a breakout performance in a Dec. 5 game against the San Francisco 49ers.

Then came the playoffs and Starks really started to shine.

Today, the kid from Niagara Falls will have finished his transition from our backyard to the greatest national stage as the starting running back in Super Bowl XLV when his Packers battle the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Win or lose, Starks is a champion in our view. He’s given this city something it sorely needed — a gridiron hero and something positive to cheer for again.

Whether you’re a football fan or not, you can’t help but smile thinking about Starks’ story. Not only has “Young Buck” overcome every obstacle thrown his way, but he’s done so with a poise and maturity that’s beyond his years.

In an interview with the Niagara Gazette before the NFC Championship game, Starks sheepishly admitted he’s become a source of pride here in his hometown.

“It shows you’re doing something more than playing football,” he said. “You’re touching people’s lives, giving people hope.

“People that don’t believe you can go to the NFL, I came from the same place you are, and I’m living my dream. As long as you put your mind to it, you can do anything.”

We’re all wishing “Buck” the best of luck.

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