Family Ties: Flynn and Starks

Family Ties: Flynn and Starks

Jonah Ballow
Wolves Editor/Writer

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Early in the third quarter of a pressure packed road wild card battle, James Starks was quickly emerging as an unlikely hero for the Green Bay Packers. On the same day, Starks’ cousin and close friend Jonny Flynn was preparing for an NBA matchup against the Spurs more than 1,400 miles away.

Both first cousins navigated completely different routes to the professional ranks. Of course, Flynn’s story has been well documented in Minneapolis, a top flight high school recruit to a college start at Syracuse before earning the No. 6 overall pick for the Wolves in 2009. The path was a bit bumpier for the Packers running back.

Prior to slicing through the Eagles defense last Sunday, Starks was a relative unknown, playing his college ball at Buffalo and becoming the No. 193 overall pick by Green Bay in the 2010 NFL Draft. According to Flynn, he knew all about Starks’ explosive capabilities when the two joined forces on the Niagara Falls High School basketball squad and feels a couple of setbacks hindered his cousin’s NFL stock.

“Just going back to college, if he wouldn’t have gotten injured his senior year, he would have definitely went first round,” Flynn explained.

Flynn, Starks, and former Syracuse forward Paul Harris formed quite the athletic trio at Niagara Falls. The basketball team featured all three of these prolific athletes and garnered the support of a tight knit community in New York.

“If he didn’t play football, he could have gone Division I definitely for basketball, that’s what type of basketball player he was. You know how those football players are so athletic; they can translate into any sport.”

Lucky for the Cheese Heads, Starks decided to stick with the pigskin and will now play a pivotal role in the upcoming divisional playoff contest against Atlanta. Starks attempts to replicate a truly remarkable 123-yard rushing performance off 23 carries while shedding a bright spotlight on Niagara Falls again.

“That was big, just knowing the situation it was,” Flynn reiterated when fondly remembering last week’s postseason win. “You know, playoffs, the team [Packers], and you can take a little shine away from Aaron Rodgers. In his [James] early NFL career, to show that kind of impact, I mean to even hear Aaron Rodgers give him a shout-out, saying that he was a big part of the game and I know that did wonders for him.”

Two weeks ago, the Wolves point guard spoke to his first cousin over the phone to deliver a premonition of sorts, "Actually, I just told him to stay ready."

Ready he was with a gridiron performance that pleased the Niagara Falls faithful -- a city of 55,000 in the third most populous state in America. The athletic blood that runs through the family is certainly a positive storyline to hit the national scene with Starks' recent running outburst.

“Definitely for us and his family in Niagra Falls it was big," Flynn smiled. "It’s all about timing, getting your break and getting your time to show your stuff. That’s why it’s just big for my hometown Niagara Falls, to see two guys from two different sports from the same family to be doing well. He is doing well and I’m doing well in the NBA and it’s just great for our family and our city”

There is one fan outside of the Wisconsin area that will not be surprised if Starks’ eclipses his own Packers rookie record for most yards in a playoff game. While Flynn is using a crossover and floater in the lane for a potential bucket against Dwight Howard and the Magic on Saturday night, his cousin will look for open gaps in the Falcons defense to possibly capture another spectacular road victory en route to an NFC championship appearance. Regardless of their professional achievements, it's the strong family ties that are essential to these Niagara Falls standouts.
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