JEFFERSON – It was a day reserved for Malaki Starks. Starks, the 5-star local football and track hero, was set to announce his college decision before cameras and live streams.
Alabama. Clemson. Georgia.
Yet as Starks is prone to do he made that day about something other than himself. He presented his decision to three very leaned-in fans bases on the day his father, Larry, was born. He chose that day to honor that man that made him what he is today.
What he is today is also a Georgia Bulldog. The nation’s No. 29 overall recruit put a hat on Thursday evening that decreed as much.
The 5-star prospect, in turn, gave his father multiple gifts. First, it was the relief from the burden of trying to provide the amount of higher education which will amount to six figures in Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina.
Yet Starks just keeps on giving. Kind of like he’s kept supplying highlights for the Jefferson High team he led to the Class 4A state championship game last December. Even with a badly injured thumb which required surgery shortly after his final game as a junior.
His folks will save at least two hours of their lives every fall Saturday driving back and forth the 20 miles and 30 minutes to Athens. That’s opposed to driving 70 miles and another hour each way to Clemson.
Or 300 miles and five hours each way to Tuscaloosa. That’s just a Malaki Starks thing to do.
That choice dates back to the first time he ever visited Georgia.
“Georgia is right down the road,” he told DawgNation. “The first time I ever went to Georgia it clicked. It was like a relationship that I’ve never had with somebody before. That first time I met them. They are just really special to me.”
With that, let’s chronicle the things to know in any commitment story.
- With his decision, this now means that Georgia has a trio of 5-star commitments in the 2022 class. Starks joins fellow 5-stars Gunner Stockton and Deyon Bouie with that distinction in Kirby Smart’s current crop.
- He becomes the ninth commitment in the class. Starks is rated as an athlete but is expected to be a free-roaming and menacing free safety during his time in Athens. There’s the off chance he adds more weight to his frame and becomes a heat-seeking Roquan at linebacker. Yet the depth chart needs rings louder for the back end of the defense rather than the middle of it.
- The 6-foot-1.5, 200-pounder has sub 11.00 speed in the 100 meters. He’s also becoming quite the long jumper. His decision also leapfrogs Georgia by LSU and Notre Dame into the nation’s No. 2 class for 2022 on the 247Sports Team Composite ratings.
5-star ATH Malaki Starks has made his college decision. (Jeff Sentell/DawgNation)
Malaki Starks: The grit that comes to play with this 5-star
The DawgNation reader that is cheering this commitment today needs to know about the warrior’s spirit he displayed during Jefferson’s run to the Class AAAA state championship in 2020. His Dragons fell short with a 30-14 loss to No. 1 Marist.
It turns out he has something in common with 5-star Georgia 2021 signee Brock Vandagriff last fall. Starks, just like Vandagriff, played through the GHSA state finals with a serious injury.
This was his thumb. He injured it in week 9 against Madison County. The 5-star ATH then reaggravated it during the state semifinals in a 42-35 road win at Benedictine in Savannah. Starks came away with the interception in the end zone to secure that win. He rambled for 321 yards and four touchdowns to put the victory on the table for his side. He even picked off a game-sealing interception.
When he learned about Vandagriff fighting through a PCL injury, he laughed. Sort of.
“That makes me feel a little bit better,” Starks said. “Guess that shows I’m not the only one who thinks like that when it comes to their team and a season.”
When discussing his condition with Jefferson head coach Gene Cathcart in December, he was seriously coy. When his coach asked for details with his conversation with the team trainer, Starks said the following.
- “It will be okay, coach. It is only for 48 minutes.”
- “I can deal with whatever for 48 minutes.”
- “I can’t wear a brace on it, coach. Can’t play offense in the state championship with a brace on my hand.”
- “I’ll be fine, coach. I will deal with it.”
The truth there is he said all of those statements while convincing his head coach he needed to focus on the opponent at hand and not his troublesome thumb.
DawgNation will have much to follow on Starks and his decision.