SUPPORT OUR WORK TODAY SO WE CAN CONTINUE HERE!
by LONN PHILLIPS SULLIVAN
After a senior year totaling 129 tackles, 17 stops for a loss, and 7.5 sacks, John Ehret High's Donte Starks watched his name ascend across the college football recruiting circuit, attracting offers from Auburn, Florida, Clemson, and Arkansas among others.
Ranked 153rd in ESPN's Top 300 players from the 2019 freshman class, while also holding a Geaux 247 rating of 6th overall out of Louisiana, Starks' stock kept rising.
Although once LSU came calling, the local linebacking force knew where he was going to school....and he wouldn't have to travel very far...
In 2019, when LSU recruited and signed Marrero's powerhouse 4 star linebacker, defensive coordinator Dave Aranda added the versatile freshman to an already talent-rich defensive unit, full of veterans such as Michael Divinity Jr, Jacob Phillips, first round NFL Draft picks Patrick Queen and hybrid DE/LB K'lavon Chaisson.
Also replete with furious young potential such as Damone Clark and Micah Baskerville, the young, "max ceiling" defender was viewed as a possible future cornerstone at linebacker.
Winning a National Championship as a freshman while appearing in 3 games, Starks' athleticism and local profile led him to become one of the Tigers' most exciting & highly anticipated defenders heading into 2020....however, things changed very quickly one weekend night.
The official story had Donte Starks in trouble with the law...arrested after fleeing police while allegedly around those in possession of a bag of drugs and a gun.
Local media reports were damning for Donte, and suddenly, though the truth about exactly what happened on the night of his arrest never seemed to be cleared up, his status at Louisiana State University was in grave danger.
Already facing tough academic obstacles as a freshman, narrowly earning eligibility with a last second math class right before Week 1 vs Georgia Southern, Donte's grades slipped in the wake of his arrest...and one day that spring, his life changed.
Waking up one morning to see social media blowing up, reading media reports about being "dismissed from the program due to team violations", Donte's run at LSU ended prematurely.
At the time, Starks told the same media machine how his dismissal wasn't related to his arrest, but rather his academic missteps, however his words fell on deaf ears.
Donte was forgotten & exiled by Orgeron's LSU, never given another chance by the same staff who had first recruited him.
Now, as Brian Kelly grabs the reins at LSU, the Tigers' new Head Coach is on the prowl for overlooked gems among Louisiana's deep reservoir of ultimate footballing talent....players who were exiled by Coach O's staff, young men who weren't even recruited, commits who were processed, and of course: the best transfer names in the portal.
One example of a player who qualifies for re-evaluation from Brian Kelly and Defensive Coordinator / LBs Coach Matt House?
After the former 2019 National Champion posted a tweet tagging LSU's official Twitter handle and following a 2 year pursuit by LSU Odyssey, we caught up with Starks to talk about the possibility of a future at LSU, what he's been up to the past year and a half, and a lot more....Starks even addresses the night of his arrest in point blank detail from his own perspective of events, telling all to LSUOdyssey.com.....with nothing to hide.
DONTE: I would love to tell you the story on what took place, because nobody knows the true story.
Everybody just knows what the media said. I never once had a chance to tell the true story & I'm looking to rejoin the Tigers. That’s my goal on trying to push them to see I’m not a bad kid, and also I got my grades up in JUCO, but if the Tigers overlook me that’s fine, I know God has a plan for me somewhere.
LONN: What's the real story on what happened the night of your arrest?
DONTE: It was a weekend or I think we were on break, I’m not sure, so I went back home for a couple of days, but the day I got arrested, I had stopped by my friend's house.
It’s usually a check up, I always stop and make sure my closest friends are okay. So, that night it was like 10 or 11 at night we were talking outside for bout 20 to 30 minutes, we talked and as soon as I decided I was about to leave, his brother came outside with a bag and asked me "can I bring him somewhere?"
And I told him "I was about to go home" and he said "where I’m going is just down the street".
So I agreed to take him home.
He went back inside and gave his bag to his brother to hold, so I stood outside my car waiting on him. He came back out and walked down the street with a lady.
I don't know the lady and I don’t know what was going on, so he came back and ran inside.
So, from there I was clueless.
So I walked by my friend and asked "what’s going on?"
He said he "didn’t know", so next thing you know we see a police car riding down the street.
It passes, then like 4 police cars are coming down the street with their lights on, so he throws me the bag and tells me to "run". Honestly, I didn’t know what to do, so I ran behind the house, jumped the fence, and realized my car was still parked... so either way, I was going to get caught.
So I throw the bag under a truck and came out with my hands up.
They assaulted me, fractured my finger and threw me in the back of the car and asked "where was the bag?"
I told them "I threw it", so they brought the guard dogs out and found the bag.
The head detective lady walked up to the car and said “I hope you know they are not your friends” and I said "what are you talking about?"
She said "they used you as a distraction to run while they planted the drugs in your car"...and I didn’t say anything.
She said “we are not going to charge you with the drug charges because she's seen everything", including him throwing me the bag, but she has to charge me with possession of a firearm that was in the bag because I had it and ran with it.
I was released the next morning on bail.
LONN: What did Coach O say after the arrest?
DONTE: Coach O called that morning telling me "get back to school".
I headed back, we had a talk, he actually gave me another chance after (the arrest)...but my grades weren’t good.
They said I "have to do better" and "stop going back home" and Coach O said "this is your last chance..."
So a few weeks later, I was dismissed from the team because of my grades. It was never for what happened (the arrest); he gave me another change to make it right. I just want people to hear the truth and know the truth.
LONN: Did you ever feel supported by Orgeron's staff after you were allegedly assaulted by these officers?
DONTE: I never told them about me getting assaulted by the police, I don't know why...I just didn’t. I really never had a chance to tell them the truth. Everything happened so fast and after that, honestly, I thought it was all over.
LONN: Did you ever feel supported by the Orgeron staff regarding your academics?
DONTE: On that I can say I kind of did, but not really because they knew there are accommodations that I need, but they didn't provide it, but also it’s my fault...
I didn’t apply enough pressure for them to give them to me and like I said, Coach O was willing to give me another chance....he had his mind made up that he wanted me to play, but the academic part was out of his control.
LONN: Donte, do you feel Orgeron's staff were disorganized in how they oversaw the players' academics?
DONTE: Umm I don’t know if I can really speak on anybody else but the situation with me and my close friend John Emery was kind of disorganized and messed up....really messed up. Once Covid came about everything started transitioning...
LONN: Donte, what do you want LSU's current staff to know most about your past history with the Tigers?
DONTE: I’m not the same person. I’m physically and mentally ready.
I’m hungrier than before and my future goal is to get my degree and make it big, and also to mentor the young ones and be an example that anything is possible through our God.....just have to keep pushing and working hard.
LONN: How have you stayed active in football since 2020?
DONTE: I attended Coahoma Community College as of now. I played the last 2 seasons, then tore my ACL and meniscus the first year, did my rehab and now I'm working with a trainer and my uncle back home to stay active.
LONN: Where is your knee at health wise?
DONTE: My knee is about 70-80%....just need the proper treatment to get back to 100%, but nothing's stopping this knee, I’m ready to go.
LONN: Your dismissal story made the media rounds at the time, as we've talked about. What do you want to say to the people who judged you without hearing your side?
DONTE: To all the people who judge me and they may still judge me after this, thank y’all! It made me stronger physically and mentally, and bettered and humbled me as a person.
All is well.
LONN: What is the football community forgetting about Donte Starks and how far are you willing to go to get back on the field?
DONTE: I’m still that same person, just bettered my craft and prepared myself physically and mentally so whatever organization is dedicated to giving me a chance....it won’t be a mistake, it’ll be the best decision they every made.
By LONN PHILLIPS SULLIVAN
Copyright 2022 Uninterrupted Writings Inc
NOTE: The Jefferson Parish Police Did Not Respond To Our Requests For Comment.
SHOUTOUTS: Thank You Donte for your Courage in Speaking About Your Past, Present and Very Bright Future.
You are forever a Champion.