*On the Sidelines with Max Starks *
Steelers.com will bring you a regular feature throughout the season titled On the Sidelines where Teresa Varley will sit down with players and help you get to know them away from the game.
Offensive tackle Max Starks is a player who is heavily involved in the Pittsburgh community, lending a hand to a wide variety of charities.
Max Starks established the Max Starks Fund, through the Pittsburgh Foundation, to help promote childhood literacy and education. Starks, who himself went back to school to complete his degree, knows the value of education and wants to do his part to make sure that the today's youth are prepared for the future with a proper education.
Something near and dear to Starks heart is events that raise funds and awareness for breast cancer. His mother, Eleanor, is a breast cancer survivor. He participates in events through the team and around the Pittsburgh community that benefit breast cancer. This year he and his mother were co-hosts of Hot Pink Pittsburgh, raises funds to provide breast and cervical cancer screening for uninsured women in Western Pennsylvania.
Starks also hosts the Hoge/Starks/Ward golf outing to benefit the Caring Foundation and Caring Team, with teammate Hines Ward and former Steelers running back Merril Hoge. Proceeds benefit families in western Pennsylvania by raising funds to provide free healthcare benefits for children and adults and free grief support services for children, adolescents and their families who are struggling with the death of a parent or sibling. He is also involved in the annual Caring Team luncheon, which honors area schools that raise money for the cause.
He has also organized a yearly Thanksgiving Turkey giveaway for needy families through the Pittsburgh Food Bank.
When did you first play organized sports?
I was six-years old and went to a small Catholic school and played soccer. I was in the first grade and they told my mom I should go out for soccer. I was like, yeah, I'll do it. My best friend and little brother were on the team too. They put me in as goalie and I had to wear this yellow uniform and it was a great color jersey, but bees like gold and they thought I was honey. The first game we played I am at goalie and no balls are coming my way. All of a sudden three bees are coming at me and I run out of the goalies net. The one kid that can semi-kick the ball is coming down the field slow as heck and I am nowhere to be found. I am running behind the goal, the bees are chasing me and I am screaming. Luckily the kid didn't score. He hit the corner of the goal post. They took me out as goalie and put me in as a defenseman after that.
What other sports did you play?
I played soccer, baseball, basketball, swimming, tumbling and any type of sport they had in our community. I never played football then though.
Who has been the biggest influence on you? *My mother. In a single parent household mom was always that rally person. She took me to practice, got me my equipment. Sometimes it didn't fit. I had a right-handed glove and I was left-handed. I would catch it with my left, take off my glove and throw it. Finally I did get the right glove. But she was the one always there. My brother and I played all the sports together and she was always there.
*When did you realize professional sports cold be a reality for you? *When I got drafted on April 24, 2004. That is when I realized it. It was always a dream, but a distant kind of dream. When I picked a college I picked one that was great in football and education. I wanted a balance of both. That's why I picked Florida. I wanted to earn my degree there, and even though I didn't get it on time, I did get it. When I got drafted, though, that's when I realized I had an opportunity, but I still knew they would cut guys even if they were drafted high. Once I got going in camp though I started to realize it's a dream I could live.
*Why was it important for you to get your degree?
Education was always preached in our household. My mother always stressed education first. We always had to get our homework done before we could go outside and play. It's always something that was stressed because they can never take your education from you. It's something that always stuck with me and I always tried to better myself in whatever I did.
Why are you so involved in the community?
Community service was always stressed in my house too. My family is in the funeral business and being in the funeral business was like community service. You are providing a service and helping others in need. It's habit now. I have always done it since I was a child working at a funeral. In middle school I became an elementary school tutor. I did it and loved it. I always had a passion for helping others, especially children.