During his decade-long career, former offensive tackle Max Starks produced countless blocks and was a member of Pittsburgh Steeler teams that produced two Super Bowl victories.
After announcing his retirement from football earlier this year, Starks is transitioning to a different form of producing: video.
As a participant in the NFL Players Association and 120 Sports Internship Program, Starks spent one week at the 120 Sports office in Chicago. The internship allows current and transitioning players to gain on-air, production and/or in-studio analysis experience. Starks’ internship focused on production.
“Because of my background and wanting to be in the sports broadcasting and media world, I felt it was a natural progression,” Starks said. “The premise behind the 120 Sports internship was a natural draw for me. It brought to my attention the different career opportunities available in the media.”
Starks is the fourth player to participate in this internship program. Current free agent Derek Hagan, Dolphin A.J. Francis and Steeler Will Allen were previous interns.
Although Starks attended the University of Florida -- where the College of Journalism and Communications is steps away from the football stadium -- journalism was never something Starks considered as a potential career opportunity.
Then again, he didn’t see himself playing professional football, either.
“My main focus in school was business,” Starks said. “I really wanted to focus on marketing but the human element of it, and that’s why I chose sociology.”
Through the NFLPA and 120 Sports Internship, Starks has had the opportunity to take advantage of his passion for interacting with people while preparing himself for his next endeavor.
“My talents have been used in one direction for so many years,” Starks said. “This experience provides me with the chance to actually be able to break free of that mold and routine. It gives participants something new and exciting that gets you anxious and keeps you on your toes.”
He compared being an intern to being a sponge, and soaking up information is something Starks has been doing a lot of during his time at 120 Sports. And while 11 years have passed since his first training camp, he said that the internship brought back a lot of the thoughts and feelings he had then.
“I think interning is no different than being a rookie as far as what is asked of you and the responsibilities. They are both distinctly proving processes.” Starks said.
As Starks talked about the different responsibilities expected of a producer, it was hard to believe he wasn’t a veteran of the broadcast business. His production experience prior to arriving at 120 Sports was commanding a podcast on a shared phone line.
Starks now uses terms such as “dissolve,” and “optimal camera positon” effortlessly in conversation and can easily explain the importance of the relationships between producers, the editing department and the graphics department.
He is also aware of the common misconception that an active or former player is only suited for a job in front of the camera. In response to that, Starks quoted a piece of advice from former defensive back and current TV analyst Solomon Wilcots.
“Flexibility is the best ability.”
Starks understands if he is going to last in a field where talent comes and goes faster than third downs, he must be versatile. He also demonstrates that he is keenly aware of the value of finding a career beyond football.
“There are 20, 30, 40, 50 years down the line that you’re still going to be living life, and there are still transferable skills you have from football,” Starks said. “You have to learn how to practically apply those and find your passion so that you’re putting them in the right direction.”
“This internship has been a great way for me to do that. I don’t think I would have even thought of finding an opportunity like this had the NFLPA not made it available.” he continued. “I’ve learned so much, and I’m so thankful that the NFLPA and 120 Sports worked together to provide this program for players.”
-- Jenna Perlman