James Starks has never spent time alone in the limelight. At Niagara Falls, he was overshadowed by his basketball-toting cousin, Jonny Flynn. He’s been a talented, yet quiet second fiddle to Drew Willy in his time with the UB football team.
But that’s all about to change. With Willy gone to graduation and the football world waiting to see if the Bulls were a one-hit wonder, Starks is the guy. Plain and simple.
And while he insists he’s good to go, you wonder how he’ll handle the pressure.
“I know what I have ahead of me and I’m ready for it,” he said Thursday. “I just try to keep my composure. I just want to play within myself. I don’t want to put too much pressure on myself.”
Unfortunately, the pressure will be palpable. If UB wants to hang with big boys like UTEP and Pitt, Starks will need to explode out of the gates, taking pressure off newbie quarterback Zach Maynard.
Watching Flynn, who has already cashed in on his athletic talents, had to serve as motivation for Starks, who’s one of 45 guys on college football’s preseason Doak Walker Watch List. How much motivation? So much so that Starks, known as an occasional no-show for off-season workouts in the past, didn’t miss one this summer. According to one member of the UB staff, he’s in the best shape of his life.
“We always talked about how good we could all be,” Starks said of conversations he had with Flynn and others. “It made me work a lot harder this year after seeing him. And nobody was as proud when we heard his name called.”