Starks has Eagles asking: 'Who is this guy?'
That’s the question most of the crowd at Lincoln Financial Field and most of the audience watching the Eagles-Packers game around the country was undoubtedly asking Sunday as the lanky rookie kept churning out rushing yards. Eventually, he finished with 123 on 23 carries in the 21-16 win. Not bad for a kid who had 101 yards on 29 carries all season.
Starks is a living Google search; his whole career has been marked by obscurity. He played at the University of Buffalo and missed his senior season with a serious shoulder injury. He had been so impressive earlier in his college career that the Packers took a flyer on him in the sixth round of the draft last spring, but a hamstring injury derailed his preseason and he started the year on PUP, missing the first nine games. He sat out the last two games, as well.
“I was with my family playing some games and watching the games and eating some popcorn and taking it all in,” he said. “I just knew I would get my chance and I had to be ready to go when my number was called.”
It was called a lot. Packers coach Mike McCarthy said there were a few plays for Starks in the game plan, but once the kid got started, it was hard to stop him.
“He established the hot hand early, and I rode it,” McCarthy said.
Starks wasn’t the only surprise contributor for the Packers. Tight end Tom Crabtree caught a 7-yard touchdown pass to open the scoring in the first quarter after catching just four passes all season. With all of the injuries the Packers have suffered this season, there are bound to be unheralded backups producing at this point.
“We have a lot of dudes people haven’t heard about on this team,” guard Daryn Colledge said.
The king Sunday was Starks. Packers players and coaches said that over the last few weeks, he’s improved his practice and study habits, suggesting that injuries weren’t the only things holding him back. Aaron Rodgers said he “really learned how to be a pro” during that time.
“James Starks is just a fine young man, a very talented young man,” McCarthy said of the running back who just needed a chance. “Everybody knows his story.”
Well, they do now.