James Starks won a Super Bowl with the Green Bay Packers two seasons ago.
He was the first University at Buffalo running back ever to be drafted. He owns several school records and, after overcoming a preseason injury as a senior with the Bulls, posted strong numbers since joining the Packers in 2010.
While some of his accomplishments speak loudly, Starks is admittedly soft-spoken. He's very religious and says he considers himself shy and quiet.
During a recent visit to ESPN headquarters, Starks opened up to Playbook about his hopes for the upcoming season, the scene after the Packers won Super Bowl XLV over the Pittsburgh Steelers and his cousin in the NBA, Jonny Flynn.
Playbook: Why did you choose to go to Buffalo?
Starks: I wanted to stay close to home [Niagara Falls, N.Y.]. The timing was better, so I went to UB. It also had to do with the coaches for the team.
Were you concerned about your chances of being drafted since you had a shoulder injury that prevented you from playing your senior year?
I thought about it, but I wasn’t really concerned. I prayed about it, but I knew that everything would go right.
Do you feel honored to be the first running back from Buffalo to be drafted into the NFL?
Yes, it's an honor. There are a lot of great players that came through Buffalo that not a lot of people may know about because they didn't have the same opportunities.
How did your family mold you into who you are today?
I was raised by my mom. My brother is like one of my best friends; he's like a mentor to me. He's the first person to go to college and graduate. It was important.
Do you have any pregame or postgame rituals?
I usually pray with my family before I get to the stadium. I like to listen to Christian music, R&B, rap, crunk prior to the game.
What is your most embarrassing moment?
[Starks and his brother began laughing and refused to say his actual most embarrassing moment. Starks said it was horrible and gave us his second one instead.]
There was a church service, and my mom and my sister [kept] trying to talk to me. And then I was talking to my sister, and my mom popped me right in the neck. It was loud, too. I don't think she knew how hard she had hit me. People were all looking at me weird, and I felt awkward.
After getting the key to your hometown on your birthday shortly after winning the Super Bowl, what did you do with it? Did you try to use it anywhere?
It only really helps if you're going out or something. You can get into places free or you can get discounts. I use it a lot, I guess. I go home a lot during my offseason.
You broke a few records in your rookie season. Which one meant the most to you?
I think it would be my first game back, the game versus San Francisco. After coming off the injury and not playing for so long, I finally got the opportunity. They gave me a shot to run the ball frequently, and I was successful. That really meant a lot to me.
[In his NFL debut against the 49ers on Dec. 5, 2010, Starks ran for 73 yards on 18 carries -- the highest yardage total by a Green Bay rookie running back making his debut since Ralph Earhart had 78 in 1948.]
You sometimes volunteer for charitable events. Which one means the most to you and why?
I like volunteering for the Housing Authority, the YMCA and basketball camps. I like working with kids and giving back to my community. I think those are fun things that kids get to see something good. A lot of the kids that I see are troubled, so you get to put a smile on their face. To be able to help out those kids makes me feel good.
NBA guard Jonny Flynn is your cousin. Do you guys ever get to kick it on the road? What's a funny story that you can share about him?
When we both come back to church is when we really get to see each other. When we're back, we just clown around and talk about how our seasons went. We talk about how we saw each other play and other stuff like that. We have funny moments together from church plays and other normal family moments.
How is Niagara Falls similar to Green Bay, and how is it different?
There is a little. Everyone knows everyone. Wherever you go, you're treated with respect. It's easy to find your way around. It's definitely cold in both places.
What was it like when Green Bay won the Super Bowl?
Weird at the time, but a happy weird. You don't think it could happen to you. But then it happens, and I think about all the things in the past that I had to go through to get there. I'm surprised to have gotten there. I just feel blessed.
What are you most excited about for this upcoming season?
Probably just mostly excited about the season starting and getting back into it. I want to be more successful this season, prove to people that I can be better. Prove to people that I'm not injury-prone and prove their theories wrong.