Two years ago, Jacob Starkey was a Millikan football player without a position to play. Tonight, he will be a senior captain when the Rams host Wilson in a second-place Moore League battle.
“He tried for three years to try and find himself on the field,” Millikan coach Justin Utupo said of Starkey. “I think he’s having himself an unsung hero year.”
After seeing limited playing time as a freshman defensive lineman, Starkey moved to offensive line as a sophomore center for the junior varsity squad.
“I hated it,” Starkey said of playing offensive line. “It was too much thinking. I just want to hit someone.”
That desire for unfettered contact pushed Starkey into a role as fullback last season, but like many football teams recently, a change in offensive strategy for the Rams took the fullback position out of the mix. That left Starkey without a position for his senior year, so he went back to what he knows best.
“In pop warner my coach just told me to go make a tackle, so I just did it,” Starkey said. “I stared working with the defensive line again over the summer, and made that my position. I just go out and do it, no questions asked.”
Starkey is now a key piece of the Millikan line at defensive tackle, and the 5’6” 215-pound senior is averaging almost four tackles per game this season.
“I’ve always been the smallest person, but I don’t see myself as small,” Starkey said. “It has never affected the way I play football. I feel like I can do what anyone else can do.”
“As small as he is, it’s the way he comes off of the ball, his leverage and his understanding of tendencies that makes him good,” Utupo said.
Starkey’s parents both went to Millikan, so it was a forgone conclusion that he would become a Ram. He played youth baseball because of his stature, but made his way back to the football field because of his love for contact.
“If I get a big hit, or I get hit hard, I just like hitting,” Starkey said. “It’s weird, I don’t know how to explain it. School is stressful sometimes, so after school I come to practice and start hitting people.”
It makes sense that Starkey says he’s “all over the place” since he’ll listen to everything from hip hop to country music to get pumped before a game. He also loves watching football, but doesn’t root for a favorite team. Starkey even says he struggles to pay attention in school, but likes math class.
If Starkey is all over the place in the Wilson offensive backfield tonight, it won’t be a surprise.