Financial terms were not disclosed in either case. However, On3.com, which attempts to keep track of name, image and likeness arrangements nationwide, listed Starks’ worth at $511,000 and placed him among the top 100 college players in the nation. It did not appear that the accounting had been updated since late spring.
Everett, who founded his Greenville, South Carolina-based marketing firm in 2013, would confirm only that has Starks also has a deal with Associated Credit Union. ESM also represents Georgia tight end Brock Bowers, who also benefits from a partnership with Associated Credit Union and is listed 39th on On3.com’s NIL earners.
So, what’s all the fuss about? It’s because Starks is thought of as perhaps the best defensive back in America in 2023. Only a sophomore, he is a consensus preseason All-American heading into this season. He was named the nation’s freshman of year by the Football Writers Association of America for 2022 after starting 14 of Georgia’s 15 games last season. He was on every all-freshman list.
Back for his second season with the Bulldogs, Starks returns as the starter at free safety this season. He will be paired with Javon Bullard, who moves to the back-third of the defense this season at strong safety. Bullard played star – a rover-style, fifth defensive back position – for Georgia last season.
Starks said it’s a great fit.
“Having a guy like him back there, him being a vet, basically, just gives me confidence,” Starks said. “We’ve been clicking; the whole defense has been clicking. But he was one of my mentors when I first got here. Awesome guy, great player, and I’m just honored to be back there with him.”
Starks’ impact at Georgia was immediate. A 6-foot-1, 205-pound former 5-star out of Jefferson, Starks didn’t start Georgia’s 2022 opener against Oregon, but entered in the first quarter and immediately turned heads with an acrobatic, leaping interception. Starks finished with a team-best eight tackles and started every game from then on.
Later in the year, Starks would make what some believe was the biggest play of the season. With Missouri running back Cody Schrader breaking free for what seemed like a sure 64-yard touchdown run, Starks ran him down from behind and dropped him on the 1-yard line. The Tigers had to settle for a field goal and that proved the difference as the Bulldogs came from behind for a 26-22 victory in Columbia, Missouri.
A year later, Starks acknowledges now that he got by last season mostly on athletic ability and instincts. What makes him so excited about this season is a much deeper understanding of the job of playing safety in the SEC.
“Recognizing formations, just really diving into actually learning football,” Starks said of his progress since last year. “Being here with (co-defensive coordinator Will) Muschamp and coach (Kirby) Smart and (co-defensive coordinator Glenn Schumann), you have no choice but learn football. So I’d definitely say understanding the game of football better.”
Regardless of how the season goes, Georgia knows it will have Starks at the back of its defense for another year. Thanks to his earnings in NIL, Starks shouldn’t be in too big of a hurry to leave. His first promotion came earlier this year when Your Pie of Athens asked him to come to a location to serve slices of a special pizza they created in his honor. It was called “Mala-Pie.”
That was local. Now Starks has gone national.
Through it all, Starks has vowed to remain grounded and give back. In July, he held a free football camp for at-risk kids in Atlanta’s Cabbagetown Park in conjunction with Associated Credit Union.
“In life, it doesn’t matter where you start; it’s where you finish,” Starks said at that event. “So, I always try to be kind and put a smile on people’s faces.”