In the months leading up to the NFL combine, several collegiate football players will spend time at the Athletic & Personal Development program preparing themselves for the rigors and pressure of the combine, which will help determine how high or low a player goes in the NFL Draft. Here's one of the players:
While attending the University at Buffalo, RB James Starks set records by becoming the Bulls' all-time leading rusher, the first 1,000 rusher in their Division 1-A era, and their first freshman ever to earn All-MAC honors (in 2006). At 6'2", his extraordinary size has not only draws notable comparisons to other running backs, but has also created quite the high school basketball legacy.
During his senior year, he and his Niagra Falls High teammates gained national recognition after beating some prominent teams...
"As soon as we were being recognized nationally we came to Palm Beach Florida and they had a tournament, we played against some nationally ranked teams. We knew we were good, we wanted to go out and show the world. We're a little city--no one really heard of little old Niagra Falls (not the high school sports teams, anyway)--so we were just trying to state a claim that Niagra Falls births great athletes, too. No matter where you are, there's great athletes. So we went down there and won the whole tournament."
Although he knew he wanted to play football in college, the true two-sport athlete had opportunities to play basketball also. However, his decision to focus on football would not put the family basketball legacy at risk...
"It was some D1-AA teams that looked at me but I was never really thinking about playing basketball at all, it was just something to keep me in shape and keep my out of trouble. I always wanted to play football, it was really just something to do. Everybody knew me as a football player; my cousin Johnny (Flynn, Minnesota Timberwolves) was the basketball star in my family."
One thing that the cousins have in common is the advice they received growing up from a pastor-- Starks' uncle and Flynn's father.
"My pastor, which is also my uncle, had a big influence. He raised a pro athlete, Jonny Flynn (Minnesota Timberwolves), who is my first cousin. He knows a lot and he has a lot of faith. He's taught me a lot, tells me if I follow the Lord things will fall into place. Having his blessing clears my mind so I can focus on one goal; if I do that everything will end up how its supposed to."
James Starks was projected by SportingNews.com to go as the 9th running back in the draft. Standing at 6'2", 215 lbs. he draws comparisons to the likes of Minnesota Vikings' Adrian Peterson.
Given his upbringing, it is no coincidence that his focus and work ethic have brought him to the doorstep of the National Football League. Given his training at IMG, he is taking strides that will help him cross the threshold.