Editor’s Note: This article appeared in the first edition of the PrepsKC Magazine released Aug. 27, 2010. Starling would lead Gardner-Edgerton to the Kansas Class 5A semifinals where it fell 49-42. Starling would score five of the trailblazers seven TDs and finish with 273 yards rushing and 118 yards passing. Even though he had a scholarship to the University of Nebraska for football that would be his final football game. He was drafted by the Kansas City Royals with the fifth pick in the 2011 Major League Baseball draft. Starling made it to the big leagues with the Royals in 2019 and is currently in spring training with the team.
There’s not much left for Bubba Starling these days. The senior quarterback at Gardner-Edgerton has helped turn the Trailblazers into one of the top football programs in the state. He’s decided on where he wants to play college football and baseball.
For a senior in high school there isn’t much left to do but graduate and start thinking about his time in college. But before Starling heads off to Nebraska in a year, there is a little unfinished business-like leading Gardner-Edgerton to its first-ever football state title.
For a program that hadn’t won a playoff game three years ago, to be one of the top teams in the state and maybe the favorite to win the Kansas 5A title is a long journey in a very short time.
Last year the Trailblazers came one game short when they ran into six-time state champion Hutchinson losing 52-14. This year Starling’s goals are well defined now that all distractions are out of the way.
“Getting the college thing out of the way was great,” Starling said. “Now I can just go out and focus on playing hard and helping my teammates come out and play hard on Friday nights and come out with a victory. We definitely want to take that next step and get to the state championship and hopefully win it.”
The great season last year put Starling and the Trailblazers on a national focus. Starling had long been known as a pitching prospect in baseball, but after last year football began to lead the way. Starling will play both at the next level for the Cornhuskers, but football is the only focus right now.
Gardner-Edgerton Head Coach Marvin Diener came to Gardner four years ago after 19 years and six state titles at Salina, Kan. Central. Diener has seen plenty of highly recruited athletes in his time and Starling is one that kind of flew under the radar until his junior year.
“He’s been under a spotlight for just the last and he was kind of off the radar screen until then because everybody knew about his baseball prowess instead of football,” Diener said. “But he’s handled it very well. He truly loves the game and he’s a fun kid, a good kid that just enjoys playing and is very good at it.”
Being a good teammate is one of Starling’s strongest attributes, maybe even stronger than the cannon arm and the strong legs. When you ask him about possible individual awards like the Simone Award, given to the top big class offensive player in the Kansas City Metro, he talks about the work of the lineman in front of him and the backs who run the ball and protect him in the backfield.
“It’s pretty special (to be considered for the Simone), you know I couldn’t have done it without my teammates especially the guys on the line,” Starling said. “It’s just pretty special to see some of the guys who have won it in the past and that I might possibly be a candidate.”
When Starling talks about football he goes back to the team, not his individual accomplishments. Diener said even with his many athletic achievements his greatest is his ability to lead and be a good teammate.
“The thing that’s always been great about Bubba right from the beginning is he has always been a great friend to his peers,” Diener said. “He enjoys being around them and enjoys playing the game. When it is Friday night, he is always focused on winning the game. He’s been a great person and a great leader for us.”
There is a lot of attention locally on Gardner-Edgerton and Starling. This year national attention will be tightly focused on the program as ESPNU will broadcast the Trailblazers Oct.22 game with St. Thomas Aquinas nationally.
When that game is aired football fans around the country will get a look at Starling and what is one of the best high school football atmospheres in the Kansas City Metro. Starling said the game-day experience at Gardner-Edgerton is one of the best things about playing football.
“It’s really fun, we walk through this little tunnel and then there are fireworks go off,” Starling said. “Then the other team is over there, and the nerves are just running through your head. Then when you go out for the coin toss, I’m one of the captains, it really gets you pumped.
“It’s really fun getting to play on ESPN,” Starling said. “It’s against Aquinas which is a rivalry. I just think that is awesome because we’ve battled them the last few years. They’ve won a few times; we’ve won a few times. We’ll just have to see how it goes this year. It’s going to be fun.”