Randy Starks

Randy Starks is a Pro Bowl DT for the Miami Dolphins. // Jason Nuttle Photography

Randy Starks is a Pro Bowl DT for the Miami Dolphins. // Jason Nuttle Photography

The article originally appeared in the December 2012 issue of Gold Coast magazine.

Playing With Style
Who says jocks don’t know how to dress? This one does. Miami Dolphins Defensive End Randy Starks shows he has style both on and off the field.

The plush beige couch sitting in the middle of the penthouse suite of a posh Fort Lauderdale beach hotel never looked so small. Probably because it never had Randy Starks sit on it. Until today, that is.

At 6 feet 3 inches and 305 pounds, Starks is a big boy. His hands are the size of pizza pans, his thighs the circumference of oak tree trunks, his shoulders the width of the 17th Street Causeway Bridge. The defensive tackle debuted with the Miami Dolphins in 2008, brought from Tennessee to do damage against offenses, sack quarterbacks and wreak havoc on run plays. And today, on his off day, Starks is dominating this once-mighty couch.

To say there are a lot of expectations on Starks’ shoulders is an understatement. An eight-year NFL veteran, by the time week 9 of the 2012-2013 season came, Starks’ career numbers included 298 tackles, 31.5 sacks, four interceptions and a 2010 Pro Bowl ticket. He’s no longer the 20-year-old rookie drafted No. 71 by the Titans. No longer the 17-year-old kid who started as a true freshman at Maryland. No longer the young Army kid who lived in Germany for five years and had to then adjust to the American life in Virginia. At this point in his career, no one is forgiving Starks if he makes a mistake. No one.

Reticent by nature, Starks has long let his playing do the talking. If he can answer a question with as few words as possible, he does.

So how will you handle the pressure of being a veteran? “I don’t mind the pressure,” he says, shrugging his shoulders as if to say, “It doesn’t bother me.”

When did you know you were good at football? “Making it as a true freshman,” Starks says, looking down at his shoes. “I just made it happen.” Period.

For those who know Starks, he’s never going to be the guy who cracks the loudest joke, never the one who’ll laugh the hardest. At best, you’ll get a nice half-smile from him, maybe a chuckle or two. That’s Randy Starks for you: cordial, polite, taciturn. But put Starks on the field, faced against an offensive lineman, and you get another person.

Starks’ athletic prowess began with basketball. A power forward who rebounded like his life depended on it, he excelled at the sport, tallying more than 700 boards in high school. And then football came knocking. He picked up the sport in high school, where his coaches used to tell him “you’re a football player playing basketball,” perhaps a polite way of saying he’ll never quite be the inside man Charles Barkley was.

After a successful collegiate career as a Terrapin, Starks left the University of Maryland (never once missing a game) after his junior year and entered the NFL draft as the 71st overall pick. After playing four seasons with the Tennessee Titans, where he forced fumbles against Peyton Manning and recovered a Drew Brees fumble, Starks came to the Miami Dolphins in 2008. Today he’s developed into one of Miami’s star defensive players flourishing under Coach Joe Philbin’s 4-3 defense.

 ***

The first time Starks came home with a tattoo he was 18. And his mom was livid.

“I didn’t tell my parents,” Starks says. “And when my mom found out, she was hot.”

You see, the Starks household was an orderly one. With Randolph Sr., a 20-plus-year Army veteran, as the patriarch, the Starks family didn’t color outside the lines too often.

And then their teenage son came home with a permanent tattoo.

“He just shook his head,” Starks remembers when his father first saw the tattoo. “He’s a quiet guy, and that head shake said a lot.

“My father is disciplined, a neat freak. … Everything he do [sic] is on schedule,” Randy Jr. describes. “But now that he’s a little older, I can see that he’s loosened up a bit.”

Today Starks’ body is covered with ink, the most notable one is on his left forearm, of his father’s countenance – perhaps a homage to the man who didn’t kill him after Starks began coloring outside the lines. Fiercely devoted to their family and son, Randolph Sr. and Beverly Starks never missed their son’s collegiate football games, sometime leaving their Maryland home on a Thursday to drive to Randy’s Saturday away games.

And it’s these qualities of devotion and selflessness that Starks looks to show his 6-year-old son, Trey. As a single father, Starks wants to set an example to his son that, even if there is some ink, it’s the heart and fight of a person that really matters.

“I want to be somebody that puts his all into things, someone you can count on, be loyal … I want to be an example to my son,” he says.

***

If there’s one thing Starks isn’t afraid to admit, it’s that he can’t coach his son in soccer. In fact, he says he doesn’t even know where to begin. “I can’t help him there,” Starks jokes, referring to fútbol. Too bad because this past summer all Trey’s been talking about is getting on the soccer pitch.

When asked what his best moment as a football player was, without hesitation Starks says it was making the Pro Bowl. When asked what his best moment as a father was, Starks is a bit more contemplative. Perhaps there are too many memories with Trey that Starks can’t narrow it down. After some thought, he smiles his trademark half-smile, looks down at the ground and says, “Last year’s Christmas school play.

“Trey was singing,” Starks continues. While he can’t pinpoint any of the songs or what Trey’s exact role was, he says he’s never been more proud. “That’s when it really hit me that I need to do things like my parents did. If I’m going to be a father, I’m going to be a good one.” And then he looks up, and gives a half-smile.

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