By Kevin Gibson
So who is this gridiron man of mystery, anyway – this man who appeared, nearly incognito, and racked up 123 yards for a rushing-starved Green Bay Packers offense, helping to propel the team to the Divisional Round of the NFC playoffs next weekend?
His name is Starks. James Starks. And until just a few weeks ago, he’d seen nothing more than a practice field and a workout room for nearly two full years. On Sunday in Philadelphia, however, he was Green Bay’s secret weapon, and came fully loaded. Here’s the lowdown:
Starks was born Feb. 25, 1986, in Niagara Falls, N.Y., and played for his high school team in that city, rushing for more than 1,000 yards and throwing for more than 600 yards to earn All-Western New York honors in his senior season.
He then went on to have a standout collegiate career at Buffalo, with back to back 1,000-yard seasons his sophomore and junior years. He went down with a shoulder injury, however, and missed his entire senior season before being drafted as a sleeper with the 193rd overall pick (sixth round) by the Packers in 2010.
Before anyone could see what he was capable of doing on the field at the NFL level, Starks was felled with a hamstring injury in training camp and was placed on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list until Nov. 10.
He rushed for just over 100 yards on 29 carries in sporadic appearances in Green Bay’s backfield time-share before his breakout game Sunday against Philly. Teammates – specifically Aaron Rodgers – credited Starks for being one of the key agents to victory.
Can it continue? One has to assume the Atlanta Falcons will study the tape from Sunday’s game carefully and come up with a way to thwart the rookie. Nevertheless, the threat he poses takes a tremendous amount of pressure off Rodgers and the passing game, as well as the defense, given the added ability to control the clock (Green Bay won the time of possession battle against the Eagles, 32:00-28:00).
Perhaps he is no longer a secret weapon, but Starks adds a new dimension between the tackles, which hopefully will leave Atlanta’s defense shaken, if not stirred. (Ouch. Sorry.)