We all know how difficult life can be, especially when you're a teenager.
There are many different factors that come into play during this point in our lives, including hormones, peer pressure, academic responsibilities and developing a good reputation. It's at this point in our life where we start to make our own decisions and during that process make a lot of our mistakes.
While it's undoubtedly uncomfortable when those mishaps occur, there are usually two ways to handle the situation. First, you can become defiant and continue making the same mistake over and over again or you can do like Cherry Creek running back Nathan Starks and use those lessons to become a better person.
Earlier this year, Starks' world changed dramatically.
A high school football All-American running back who was dominating at Bishop Gorman High School in Las Vegas, before the 2013 season, Starks learned he would no longer be playing there. While some might jump to the conclusion that he was banished because he violated team rules, Starks' family claims that's not exactly the case.
“As we know young kids are going to make mistakes in their lives, but they have to learn from those mistakes and keep moving forward,” said Korey Knotts, Starks' mother. “Despite all the rumors that were out there, nobody was ever accused of a crime or anything like that, but at the same time, Nathan had to deal with everything that was being said and I'm proud of the way he's dealt with that.
“It wasn’t easy at all, and there were times when he broke down and cried, but every day he would wake up and move forward. That shows you just the type of person he is and that's the thing I'm most proud of. I always want my children to be accountable for the things they've done, but I can honestly say that Nathan hasn't done anything that I haven't done and I think I turned out okay.”
Looking forward to a fresh start, Knotts enrolled her son at Cherry Creek High School in Greenwood Village, Colo., a suburb of Denver.
“It's been an interesting ride and I will say that,” she admits. “Everything with the move to Colorado had to do with a lot of other personal stuff going on in my life, that my kids had nothing to do with, but unfortunately they got dragged in to it all, especially Nathan. I really felt bad about that because the whole transition has been rough for him. I'd been talking about moving for quite a while, but then things just got out of hand and played out the way it did.
“Nathan has been a great sport and it has not been easy at all, especially under the circumstances he's been put in. I had to wake up every day and keep telling my kid that this isn't the end of the world. I kept telling him, ‘This isn't what's going to define you as a person.’ I told him, ‘At the end of the day, it really doesn't matter if you play football or not because you have to graduate, stay focused and move forward. This won't be the only adversity you'll deal with in your life, so you just keep moving forward.'
“That's pretty much been our mentality and that's why things have worked out the way they have and I'm grateful.”
Knotts was looking forward to watching her son finish out his high school career in peace, but unfortunately the exact opposite happened when Starks was initally ruled ineligible, a ruling his family fought and eventually won.
“I remember when I was going to court trying to get Nathan's eligibility back and I was like, ‘Come on people, this is just high school football and nobody's being paid to play,’” recalled Knotts. “The reason I fought so hard for this was because it's his senior year and with all the transition and moving I put him through, I just wanted him to do something he enjoys doing. I'm thankful he's able to do that now.
“We just stuck with it to the end because we knew our intentions were right. We brought everything out on the table and kept nothing hidden, but I'm still flabbergasted by how everything went down, fortunately it all worked out in the end.”
Starks was forced to miss the first six games of the season while the C.H.S.A.A evaluated his case, but he's been allowed to join his Cherry Creek teammates and in the process, is showing why he's considered one of the top running backs in the nation.
“He's come in and meshed well with everyone on the team and I really didn't know if he'd be able to do that,” admitted Knotts. “I didn't want people to think that Nathan was coming in to take over the running back position and they'd give him a hard time, but they were never like that at all and accepted him with open arms.”
It seems certain college programs are still welcoming Starks with open arms also and have kept in contact with the talented rusher even during the whole Bishop Gorman fiasco.
“It's definitely been a blessing that certain people have been in Nathan's corner ever since all this happened and that just shows that those who know us, really know us,” claimed Knotts. “There are plenty of people that know Nathan Starks and even with everything that went on, it was never really a concern with them because they know the type of person he is.
“When you talk about college scholarships, I take that very seriously. I know that some schools don't want to take a chance on a kid that could be considered a risk, but all I'm going to say about that is there are schools that have taken their time to get to know him and that has definitely worked to Nathan's advantage. These programs have taken the time to get to know what Nathan's character is all about and they're comfortable with the way he is.”
One of the people who has been in Starks' corner is Notre Dame running back coach and recruiting coordinator Tony Alford.
“Notre Dame’s still actively recruiting Nathan and he's still very excited about them,” said Knotts. “Coach Alford is still recruiting him and as a parent, I love everything about him. He’s outstanding and that man's work ethic is off the charts. I told him that other recruiters have their work cut out for them because he sets the bar at the very highest level. To me he's the best-of-the-best and I'm not afraid to say that. Notre Dame is very lucky to have him as a recruiter, for sure.
“I really connected with Tony and I felt like he was the first person that was really listening to me as a mother and a person. You could tell my opinion was important to him. I understand that football is what's bringing him to recruit Nathan, but there has to be more to it personally, and Coach Alford gets that.”
-Part two of the Nathan Starks story will be coming soon, including more on Notre Dame and if a possible trip to South Bend could be in the cards. Stay tuned-