Jordan Starkes wants to make his last hoorah in pads meaningful.
The standout Northwestern receiver elected to give up football for good after this week’s Touchstone Energy Cooperatives Bowl. Like some players involved this week who are clinging to the hopes of a last-minute offer, Starkes’ mental approach is not out of a lack of opportunity at the college level.
Instead, he’s chosen a baseball future at Furman and then hopefully beyond.
“When I committed for baseball, I knew my football career was done,” said Starkes, who signed with the Paladins in November. “I’m at peace with my decision for baseball. Initially, they were going to try to work a dual-scholarship thing, but I was like ‘You don’t even need to worry about that.’ I’m at peace with it. I’m just going to be a baseball player in college.”
Starkes’ baseball prowess started early in his high school days and continued right up through last spring, when he helped coach Mitch Walters’ Trojans to the 5A state championship. His RBI in the title-deciding victory over River Bluff was among the many huge plays of that win.
This coming spring, many are expecting more of the same. Northwestern is one of the favorites - if not the favorite - to win the championship again. Starkes, a very mobile and athletic outfielder, is comfortable with that target on the back of he and his teammates’ baseball jerseys.
But that’s down the road.
As word of his peace with his future decision spread to college coaches who may have otherwise offered him a scholarship or a preferred walk-on spot, he continued to do his thing on the football field. This fall, Starkes piled up 70 receptions for 846 yards and seven touchdowns during his final go-round for the Trojans, who fell in the second round of the playoffs to Gaffney. He finished his three-year Northwestern career with 179 catches for 2,303 yards and 24 total touchdowns.
Starkes’ 2017 individual effort earned the North-South all-star nod; his going-out party will be for the North squad on Saturday at Doug Shaw Memorial Stadium.
After that, he’ll become a one-sport athlete, despite the urges of his teammates.
“He’s well-rounded; he’s a good athlete,” said Northwestern defensive lineman Chance Miller, who was also selected for this week’s all-star game. “It’s his decision. He could go either way for it. I told him he could play football at Furman, too. But he wasn’t going for that.”
Starkes cited the long-term health of football players compared with those in baseball as part of his decision. But his own abilities on the diamond hold even more water.
As a freshman, he batted just shy of .300 and added 10 runs scored in limited action. His numbers continued to improve gradually. During his championship junior campaign, he was named an Honorable Mention All-Area player by the Herald.
It added credence for the hard pass on college football. Still, with only one last opportunity for receptions and touchdowns, it’s all the more reason for him to make the most of Saturday’s all-star game.
“It’s bittersweet, really,” Starkes said. “I just wanted to come down here and enjoy my last time playing football, come out with the best of the best. I know I’m going to miss it. I know I’m going to miss it.”
Local North-South all-stars
All-stars from the Northern half of South Carolina will take on the South all-stars Saturday, Dec. 9 at noon at Doug Shaw Stadium in Myrtle Beach. Here are the locals competing:
▪ Chance Miller, Northwestern, DL
▪ Steven Gilmore Jr., South Pointe, WR
▪ B.J. Davis, South Pointe, DB
▪ Ryan Heriot, Fort Mill, DB
▪ Zion Walker, York, WR
▪ Kevius Barnes, Lancaster, OL
▪ John Erby, Chester, WR
▪ Jordan Starkes, Northwestern, WR