In this week’s “Where Are They Now” I had the opportunity to catch up with former Ravens cornerback Duane Starks.
Starks, who spent four years with the Ravens from 1998-2001, played a key role on the team’s record breaking defense during their Super Bowl run under head coach Brian Billick.
Playing in 62 games (43 starts) for the purple and black, Starks had an impressive 20 interceptions, six forced fumbles and one touchdown to go along with his 345 tackles.
Like many players around the league who finish their rookie deals, Starks tested the free agency market where he landed in Arizona with the Cardinals from 2002-2004 before finishing out his career with stints in New England and Oakland.
Here’s what Duane had to say…
Brian Bower: Back in 1998 you were the Ravens’ first-round draft pick and the tenth overall pick. Can you describe what it was like going through the draft process right up until your phone rang and it was the Ravens on the other end?
Duane Starks: On that day, I tried to stay as comfortable as possible. I just tried to relax and not get my nerves up. I was pretty confident that I would go somewhere in the first-round. My only thought process was I prayed about it and just wanted to have the opportunity to play whether I was the tenth pick or the 30th pick or any pick in the draft.
Brian Bower: Was there a player or person who you mirrored your game after or was it more of a “I’m going to be the best Duane Starks” I can be?
Duane Starks: I felt that I had a lot to prove based on size and the stigma of what a cornerback should look like. One person that I actually looked up to and he never knew was because I never met him was Merton Hanks. His style of play and his build and his ability to make plays was amazing and a confidence booster for me. He could go out there and compete and play!
Brian Bower: What was your “welcome to the NFL” moment? Does a certain play stand out in particular to you? Perhaps a big hit or playing under the lights in front of the Ravens home crowd?
Duane Starks: I think my moment was actually my first game I ever played in. The speed that I showed to run down a Pittsburgh running back and knock the ball out causing a safety right before he scored. Also my first interception had to be my most memorable because I hurt myself. I felt like I jumped up thirty, forty feet in the air (laughs) and I came down on my back. It was amazing and the things I will always remember.
Brian Bower: What was it like to play for Brian Billick and are you surprised that he never coached again after being fired following the 2007 season?
Duane Starks: You know I never really gave it any thought. When he did coach, he did a great job. He was in a great situation here in Baltimore. He had great coaches in Marvin Lewis and [running backs] coach [Matt] Simon and so forth and he had a group of great guys that ended up playing with him that were actual leaders on the team. I think they did a great job of building that team around Ray Lewis and that group of guys.
Brian Bower: One of the most underrated plays in Super Bowl XXXV is the hit Jamie Sharper made on Ike Hilliard. Do you think that changed the way the other Giants’ receivers played the game from that point forward?
Duane Starks: (Laughs) Anytime you get a receiver knowing he’s going to get hit coming across the middle I think they’re going to think twice about it especially when they see it first hand. I think their game plan stayed the same. We just had two great corners and James Trapp, Robert Bailey and Kim Herring at safety. They had a lot more to deal with than the hits, they had to worry about getting open (laughs). All the odds were against them.
Brian Bower: You jump that route in Super Bowl XXXV and it’s clear sailing to the end zone. What is going through your mind at that time?
Duane Starks: No yellow flags!!… No yellow flags, that’s all. If I get the ball and there’s no one in front of me, there’s no way in the world I am going to let someone catch me. I was hoping and praying ‘no yellow flags.’ If you look at the replay you will see me look back a couple of times like “just let it go.” The heart-wrenching part of it is that Peter Boulware came borderline to clipping a guy for no reason and I would have had to kill him (laughs). That was the only thing that could have changed that play was a dumb penalty. Me being one of the fastest guys on the team – maybe even the fastest guy on the team – that wouldn’t have been smart at all.
Brian Bower: Some of your former teammates have said that if Trent Dilfer had stayed on as the Ravens QB in 2001 that you guys would have won back to back Super Bowls. Do you agree?
Duane Starks: There was some changes that were made but definitely we had a chance. With Trent Dilfer it probably would have been a better situation because he knew what we needed and that was not to turn the ball over. If you don’t turn the ball over, you let Kyle Richardson punt the ball or Matt Stover [kick field goals] and we (defense) would be okay.
Brian Bower: If you could do it over and with hindsight being 20/20, would you have taken less money to stay in Baltimore? Or was it time to move on and see what else was out there for you and your career?
Duane Starks: The NFL is “not for long.” I think I made the right decision but unfortunately I had a lot of injuries after I left. Who’s to say that those injuries wouldn’t have happened in Baltimore? At the end of the day it’s a business and Baltimore had the opportunity to keep me but they chose not to. There’s no way in the world I could have tuned down the type of money that Arizona was looking to pay me just for that next contract. Baltimore couldn’t match that and it was out of reach for them and I just had to move on.
Brian Bower: Do you keep in touch with former teammates? When is the last time you talked to the guy on the opposite corner from you in Super Bowl XXXV, Chris McAlister?
Duane Starks: Yeah! Actually I’ll be seeing Chris probably at the draft thing we are doing in Baltimore and doing some autograph signings during the draft event at the stadium. I stay in contact with Lional Dalton, Ray Lewis, Jamie Sharper, Chris McAlister. There is a lot of us that actually stay in contact with each other. We try to keep it as one big brotherhood. We accomplished something together. You only get one team that goes to the Super Bowl and wins each year. The brotherhood is just one thing that can’t be replaced so we try to hold on to that.
Brian Bower: What are you up to these days Duane? Do you still follow the Ravens closely?
Duane Starks: Oh yeah. I’m always in Baltimore doing different events and trying to stay close to the team. That was a big part of my life and the most memorable of my career so I stay participating in their events. I go to their parade in Ocean City, Maryland. Besides football, I have my own limousine company in Miami. I completed my MBA at George Washington University, so I’m just trying to stay busy and keep it moving.
It speaks volumes about the Ravens organization when a former player remains involved both in and around the community after their playing days, as is the case with Duane Starks and numerous other players.
Starks remains committed to the place where he shares some of his best memories.
Special thanks to Duane for his time and recounting his memories for Russell Street Report.
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