Spotlight

Duane Starks

Trust Spotlights

Duane Starks

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Duane Starks is a former cornerback who played eight seasons in the NFL with the Baltimore Ravens, Arizona Cardinals, New England Patriots and Oakland Raiders.

He is one of nine captains who assists The Trust with impacting the lives of former NFL players as they transition out of the league. He currently lives in Florida with his family.

Q
What was it like when retiring from the league?
A

The first thing that came to my mind was, “Is it really over?” I never wanted to leave the league the way I left, with injuries. But, based on the past - my last two to three years were plagued with injuries - I kind of knew what the outcome would be. When the outcome finally came, and no one wanted to pick me up, it was kind of tough at first mentally. Overall, I knew I was ready to be done playing, but I wasn't ready to go out that way. That bothered me for a while.

I tried to get into something else right away. I started a limousine company, which took up my time and distracted me a little bit. I stayed away from football. I don't think I watched football for at least three to four years. I wasn’t bitter, I just knew I had to get over the way I went out of the game.

Q
What made you want to be a Trust Captain?
A

I heard about The Trust from one of the other Captains who had reached out to me about my benefits. I was like, “Yo, this is pretty cool.” He told me, “Well, we're actually going to be looking for another captain in your area.” I said, “Well, I'm there, I have the contacts, my face is clean, and I would love to be a part of it.”

When that opportunity came about, I took advantage of it. I started to reach out to everyone to let them know I was hired as a Captain. The Trust hadn’t had a Captain from South Florida, a lot of guys were happy about the news. South Florida is a funny place, guys don’t really give in to outsiders. They’re really close here. When guys found out I was the Captain out here, they started to open up and started to trust the process. That was the great thing about the correlation between the name, "The Trust," and my values.

Being around the guys, it gives me great joy to have that camaraderie again. It keeps everything in perspective. It's just good to know you're not the only one who has been through something. It makes it easier for you to grab that ladder and climb up. I think that did a lot for me when I first got involved with The Trust. It kept me motivated to keep doing what I'm doing.

Right now, working with The Trust has been a savior. It gives me a purpose and a way to continue doing what my life is all about: helping others.

Q
What is the most important factor in a successful post-NFL life?
A

The longer you roll over in your sorrow, the worse it will turn out for yourself. You just have to keep moving.

Overall, I think a player has to come to grips with the success they had, knowing that at some point, it’s going to end. They have to do that regardless of how they feel, regardless of if they feel like they should have gone out on top or if they went out with injuries. Come to grips with it and then be able to move forward quickly. The longer you roll over in your sorrow, the worse it will turn out for yourself. You just have to keep moving. You have to find something to get into, another pleasure that keeps you excited. That's the most important thing.

Of course, financially, that's a different ballgame right there. You have to be prepared. In my case, I made a lot of money. But at the same, when I retired, I lost a lot of money. I had to fight hard and gained much discipline when trying to get it back. My retirement was in 2007, and I had a lot of REITs with my investments. Then, the economy crashed and I had to live off of what I already had in the bank. This was tough for a while. I had to learn how to cut back on my expenses.

Q
What’s so important about the football brotherhood and staying in touch with other players?
A

Throughout our lives, it’s instilled in our brains that everything is teamwork. When a lot of guys leave the league, that teamwork is gone. When they need help, they try to do everything on their own. That is not necessarily a great thing. Reaching out to a teammate when his career is over and he needs help, it revives him.

You don't have to go through this alone, we're here for you. We have this, and we have that, let's get this thing in order. You should see the joy that comes over a lot of guys’ faces. They realize and say, “thank God y'all are here because I don't know where I would have been a year from now, next month, or even day-to-day.” This revives a lot of guys.

Some guys, when they left the league, their wives and their families left them too. So now, who do they turn to? They can't turn to a teammate, because the teammate is not there anymore. They’re not on the football team anymore, their coach is not there anymore, so therefore they have to find someone that's going be there for them. The Trust has continued to be a teammate to those players.

Throughout our lives, it's instilled in our brains that everything is teamwork ... The Trust has continued to be a teammate to those players.

Q
Describe what goes on at a Captain's Event.
A

Well for one, when a guy attends a Captain Event, if he's willing to ask questions or he's willing to listen to a Captain or someone involved with the staff of The Trust, his eyes will be opened.

I think guys are awakened to all the benefits that are there for them, why they're there for them, and how it can help them. That makes a big, big difference. They realize we're there for them. It’s not that we're looking for anything from them, we're not asking them to pay any money, we're just asking them to take care of themselves. We have the resources to help them.

The Trust has changed so many lives. Just in the short time I've been involved as a Captain, I’ve seen guys gain the confidence back in order to just move on. That's a joy for me, to see a guy who's on his last leg, ready to give up and all of a sudden, he realizes there are resources out there for him, to help him. That’s a great feeling, to know I'm helping people in that way.

Q
What was the proudest moment in your NFL career?
A

The proudest moment in my NFL career happens to be Super Bowl XXXV. Playing with the Baltimore Ravens, being able to study the film before the game, the play that I expected and was waiting for came my way at the right time. I was ready for it. I intercepted the ball and ran it back for a 49-yard touchdown against the Giants.

That really opened the game wide open. With the top defense we had, it was just going to be too hard for them to come back from that deficit. We proved that and ended up winning the game 35-7.

Right after the game, we were on the field with confetti coming down. A reporter came up and he was like, “Man, that’s going to be the greatest play of your life.” I was kind of disappointed he said that, even knowing how much that meant for the Ravens organization, being on that big stage. I was still young, it was my third season, and I was thinking, “Man, I got so much more football left in me. You can't tell me that's the best thing I'm doing in my career.” I was upset about that, but I just moved on and enjoyed the rest of my victories. Lo and behold, when I look back and I think about which play was the most significant, the most meaningful, I understand what he was trying to say.

Q
What does your post-NFL career consist of, aside from being a Trust Captain?
A

After my transition out of the league, I ran my limo company for six years. I sold that when Uber came around. I took the money from the limo company and bought into a dry cleaner, which I ran for about three years. It worked out pretty decent but not as well as I wanted it to. I ended up selling my shares in that business.

Before I got into the league, I founded the Starks Charitable Foundation. I hosted a huge event in Miami, Florida for about 11 or 12 years. I started to join other foundations and let them do all the work. It is still a pleasure of mine, helping out other foundations. I’ll show up to events, act as a consultant for them, and just act as someone who can give advice and help them get sponsors. It’s been a joy, something I really like to do.

Q
Since leaving the NFL, what’s been your proudest moment?
A

My proudest moment now is working with The Trust and working with my family. Being able to see my kids run track and play football. Seeing them move on in their careers; both my kids are doing well in school. It’s just amazing, to see them and raise them in this life. This world is tough, so to get them prepared for it has been a great joy – I love it, I love it.

This world is tough, so to get them prepared for it has been a great joy – I love it, I love it.

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