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Compiled by Nick Mendola, BA ’05; photos by Paul Hokanson
JAMES STARKS, BA ’10, not only hit the National Football League gridiron running, but he also became the first Bull in 42 years to earn a Super Bowl ring. As excited fans watched in his hometown of Niagara Falls, N.Y., and throughout Western New York, Starks was a big part of the Packers’ 31-25 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers Feb. 6 in Cowboys Stadium in Dallas.
Starks led the Packers with 52 yards rushing on 11 carries—a robust 4.7 yards per carry. With the Packers’ win, Starks became the first former Bull to win football’s biggest prize since UB Hall of Famer Gerry Philbin, BA ’67, was part of the New York Jets’ Super Bowl victory over the Baltimore Colts in 1969.
“Hard work does pay off. I'm a firm believer in that”James Starks
In Green Bay’s mad rush to Super Bowl XLV, Starks quickly drew national attention in his remarkable spurt to gridiron prominence. He carried the ball 70 times for 263 yards and a touchdown to cap off his long ride to the apex of the football world. Indeed, Starks’ rise to the top saw him set UB records before missing his senior season with an injury. His stock had dipped into the sixth round of the NFL draft, but he poured in long hours on and off the field to fulfill his potential.
“Hard work does pay off,” Starks told ESPN. “I’m a firm believer in that.”
Now millions of Super Bowl viewers—and a delighted UB community—have witnessed his grit, determination and pride.
NFL scouts are becoming firm believers that professional talent flows out of UB’s North Campus. Since 2009, six Bulls have seen time in the league: Jamey Richard, BS ’08 (Indianapolis), Naaman Roosevelt (Buffalo), Trevor Scott, BA ’08 (Oakland), Mike Newton (Indianapolis), Drew Willy, BA ’09 (Indianapolis) and, of course, Super Bowl XLV champion James Starks, BA ’10.
Richard has played 39 games at guard for Peyton Manning’s Colts, making 11 starts, while Newton made six tackles as a rookie in Indy. Roosevelt made nine receptions for his hometown Bills, racking up 139 yards, while Scott has 90 tackles and 14 sacks in 42 games with the Raiders.
Willy’s journey has been a wild one. He led the Bulls to the 2008 MAC Championship and subsequently signed with the Baltimore Ravens as an undrafted free agent. The Randolph, N.J., native made a pit stop in Indianapolis—advancing to Super Bowl XLIV—before helping the Las Vegas Locomotives to the 2010 United Football League (UFL) title. His performance in the UFL found Willy signing a reserve-future contract with the New York Jets.
The success of Starks and company is not a fluke, as evidenced by 2010 senior cornerback Josh Thomas’ and senior guard Peter Bittner’s invitation to postseason all-star games. Thomas and Bittner showcased their skills for NFL scouts at the 86th annual East-West Shrine Game and Dixie Gridiron Classic, respectively.
Despite a long-held, but light-hearted, fear of hugging, Kourtney Brown, BS ’10, has embraced her role as leader on the UB women’s basketball squad.
It all began early in elementary school when the hug-happy Brown offered a squeeze to a fellow classmate. “He was afraid he’d get trapped in my long arms!” Brown recalled in a recent phone interview on Buffalo radio station WECK-AM.
Those long arms have certainly contributed to Brown’s success as a player, and the rare honor of being the single captain of a college hoops squad. The reigning MAC defensive player of the year continues to taunt the opposition by pouring in double-double after double–double. In fact, the senior forward will finish her career with the most double-digit points and rebounds in the same game of any MAC player during her tenure in the conference.
That statistic, however, is nothing compared to the fire she set to the UB record book. On Jan. 26, Brown accomplished the rarest of feats, breaking the school’s all-time scoring and rebounding mark in the same game at Central Michigan. Brown finished the game with 33 points, 16 rebounds, six blocks, two assists and three steals. She passed Brenna Doty, BS ’98, in the scoring column and now has 1,730 points, breaking a record that has stood since the 1996-97 season. Brown also broke the school rebounding mark with her first rebound of the game, breaking Janet Lilley’s record of 997 that had stood since the 1980-81 season.
“Kourtney is one of the most consistent players game-in and game-out,” says head coach Linda Hill-MacDonald. “The way she is able to produce on both ends of the floor against double and triple teams is amazing.”
Brown’s athletic achievements are matched by her productivity and focus in the classroom. By the end of her redshirt-junior year, Brown had completed her computer engineering degree. Not content with this achievement alone, she is spending her senior year pursuing a second baccalaureate degree in electrical engineering.
If you ask us, that deserves a hug.
8.26.10 Football Bulls announce a 2011 trip to Knoxville, Tenn., to take on the SEC’s Tennessee Volunteers and a 2012 visit to Athens, Ga., to face the Georgia Bulldogs.
9.30.10 Former men’s hoopster Brian Addison signs with the worldrenowned Harlem Globetrotters. He is given the nickname “Slingshot.”
11.13.10 Women’s volleyball finishes season in MAC quarterfinals for the second–consecutive year after piling up 18 wins.
12.15.10 Wide receiver Alex Neutz and linebacker Khalil Mack are named to 2010 Postseason All- Freshman Teams by national football personality Phil Steele.
1.29.11 UB women’s shot-putter Becky O’Brien broke the school and MAC records as she won the shot-put competition at the Penn State National meet at the Horace Ashenfelter III Indoor Track. O’Brien set the winning mark of 56-1.25 (17.10m) on her final attempt of the day, bettering her three previous measured throws of the day, all of which exceeded 52-9.75 (16.10m).
2.5.11 UB shot-putter Rob Golabek breaks his own UB record and scores a MAC Conference record at the Sykes-Sabock Challenge Cup held at Penn State University.
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