MIAMI — If you were to walk by Duane Starks on the street, you would say to yourself there is no way this 5-foot-10, 175-pound man is an all-star football cornerback. Oh, but he is!
The Miami native spent 10 years of his life dedicated to the game of football, and has a Super Bowl ring to prove it.
On Saturday, May 16, Karu & Y nightclub was transformed into a TV show-style studio where Starks, along with friends ranging from actor Morris Chestnut, to fellow NFL player Plaxico Burress, to actor Allen Payne and comedian Christopher Spencer gathered to celebrate his prestigious NFL career.
The Duane Starks NFL Charitable weekend celebration kicked off with a good old-fashioned roast. The 34-year-old Starks sat idly in the middle of the stage on a red reclining chair symbolizing what the rest of his days will allegedly entail.
The jokes went on, including one that Starks has a wooden leg, which is the reason why he can run so fast.
But then, the true sentiments from his friends began to surface.
Chestnut looked back years to the start of his friendship with Starks.
“I have been in the entertainment industry almost 20 years, and you very rarely come across genuine people like Duane Starks,’’ Chestnut said. “I’m excited to be here and support him because he has always been supportive of me.’’
Fellow cornerback and NFL player Justin Miller from the Oakland Raiders would never miss an opportunity to support a fellow player.
“He (Starks) has been a major asset to the league and a lot of people don't make it that far and to walk out on his own accord is truly a great success story,’’ Miller said.
As the former Miami Hurricane and Baltimore Raven sat in the middle of the stage, he peered over to his right. There sat some of the most important people in his life from his parents, siblings, his wife, son and daughter.
To his left were the roasters; the long-time friends and comrades with whom he has grown up, and who harbor some of his personal secrets that they were good and ready to share with the crowd.
Many of Starks’ fans know him best for his interception return for a touchdown that helped the Baltimore Ravens win the Super Bowl in 2001, but most of the people on that stage knew him just as that little kid from Miami with the overbite.
Never forgetting where he came from, though, Starks vowed to always give back in all that he does. Therefore, the proceeds for the whole weekend’s festivities – including Saturday’s celebration, a youth fun day in Overtown and a silent auction – were donated to the Starks Charitable Foundation and the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.
The hospital is not only dear to the Starks family because of their dedication for caring for children. It was after the doctors cured their 15-month-old daughter, Te'a, who was diagnosed with congenital hyperinsulin, that they became devoted to bringing awareness to the illness and the facility.
Starks’ father summed up his son’s journey and the night’s celebration in one sentence: “After 10 long grueling years and to have my son still here in wonderful health is a blessing.”
Starks and his wife, Kim, were looking forward to spending quality time with the family. They were planning to start packing for a scheduled vacation to Thailand.
Photo by Khary Bruyning. Duane Starks, center, with wife Kim, left, and daughter Te’a.