Friday May 24th, 2024 9:03AM

Georgia's Malaki Starks learning new ways to lead after surgery

By Bo Wilson Sports Editor

ATHENS, Ga. — Malaki Starks says his recent shoulder surgery has been a “blessing in disguise.” 

The Georgia All-American defensive back from Jefferson, Ga. has been limited in Georgia’s spring football practice this season because of the off-season shoulder surgery. He is expected to make a full recovery and be ready for the opener in Septemeber at Mercedes-Benz Stadium against Clemson. 

Starks said it’s been tough watching from the sidelines this spring, but it has taught him how to lead from a different perspective. 

“It’s tough. I haven’t been out for this long since I started playing football, so just for me to sit out and not be able to do stuff is tough,” he said. “I just started doing independent work not too long ago, so I’m able to get back into it a little bit. I guess it’s a blessing in disguise because it’s teaching me how to lead from a different perspective and be there for the younger guys and the older guys in the DB room. It’s teaching me how to connect with certain people."

Starks was named a freshman All-American and helped lead the Bulldogs to their second straight College Football Playoff National Championship in 2022. 

Last season, Starks recorded 52 tackles, three interceptions, and seven pass breakups. He was also named a consensus All-American. 

Starks has been seeing good things from the defensive backs. He said there is a “bunch of depth in that room.” 

“That room is very competitive,” he said. “Just to go out there and watch them compete to try and beat the guy in front of him but in a healthy way. Healthy competition is what we talk about a lot in that room from every guy, from the oldest guy to the youngest guy in there. They’re all going out there and trying to get better every day so it’s a good thing to see.”

With his injury, Starks has found other ways to make this spring practice a success. It’s been a teaching moment for him in every aspect. As he says, it’s “probably how much I can actually learn and affect others” while he’s not able to practice. 

“That’s the biggest thing for me in my role right now, which is being able to affect other people,” he said. “Whether it’s a young guy, old guy, grad assistant or coach, it doesn’t matter. I just bring that energy and know that every day, I’m going to go out there and be the same guy no matter what. I can’t practice but I’m not going to sit there and pout about it, I want to see everybody get better and I want to see the defense grow. Being able to learn and teach is important to me.”

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