The phrase “What Happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas” might be true for certain things, but it’s virtually impossible when talking about Las Vegas Bishop Gorman’s football program.
The Gaels, three-time defending Class 4A state champions, churn out FBS-caliber talent like IHOP does pancakes.
Because of that, college programs from across the country make the school an annual staple of their scouting adventures. That includes Texas, a program that prides itself on being predominantly homegrown.
On a trip through the glitzy desert earlier this month, Longhorns wide receivers coach Darrell Wyatt stopped by Gorman to introduce himself to 2014 running back Nathan Starks, one of the school’s prized recruits. It was the beginning of what both sides hope will be a blossoming relationship.
“I thought it was really cool,” Starks said. “I’ve heard that they don’t go out of the state a lot, so I just think that if I keep working hard it could be another option for a school in a couple of years.
“Coach Wyatt told me he really liked my film and that he had shown it to the other coaches and they really liked me. He told me to keep working and they were going to keep following me.”
If Texas is looking for one of the more well-rounded backs out West, then it would be smart if the Longhorns keep tabs on him.
Gorman annually has a plethora of skilled position players that can score in an abundance of ways, made evident by its 72-point outburst in the 2011 state title game, which it won by 44 points. One of its main weapons last season was the versatility of its super sophomore, Starks, who rushed for 656 yards and 10 touchdowns on 52 carries. He also recorded 53 tackles and four interceptions as a safety.
It’s a tall order to see the field as an underclassman, let alone earn valuable playing time. But Starks was able to succeed at both, which led to offers from Arizona, Colorado, Duke, Nebraska, Oklahoma, UCLA and Utah.
Starks is appreciative of them all, but one that stands out is his offer from the Sooners, a program that hasn’t shied away from recruiting Gorman.
In 2005 Oklahoma lured current Dallas Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray away from various other suitors, including USC, and signed linebacker Ryan Reynolds.
“That is always on my mind,” Starks said.
So, too, is the appeal of his favorite running back, Sooners great Adrian Peterson.
“I’ve watched Oklahoma since Adrian Peterson and I really like the way their offense has been run both running and passing,” Starks said.
All of those observations have come from afar, though, which he hopes to change with a trip to Norman, Okla., this summer.
That trip, one to Fresno State with his team and one to USC are the only three visits Starks has entertained to date. But he doesn’t rule out the possibility of making his way to Austin if the Longhorns continue to show interest.
“It all comes down to what school can provide the most to me at the end of the day,” he said. “I’m always going to keep my options open until my senior year. I want to keep my options open everywhere.”
In order for Starks to get a lasting look from Texas he knows he’ll have to perform on and off the field. Those are both aspects of his life he’s improved during his time at Gorman.
“Coach [Tony] Sanchez always says that character is the No. 1 thing,” Starks said. “I’ve changed a lot since I got to Gorman. I would be at a different place if I hadn’t gone to Gorman.”
On the field, Starks has displayed the uncanny ability to act as both a power back and a juke-you, lose-you, speed back able to catch out of the backfield. He prides himself in pass protection too.
Those traits should enable him to get continued looks from programs such as Texas, especially considering he is 6-foot, 210 pounds and can run a 4.4 40-yard dash.