BUBBA STARLING, 18, Gardner-Edgerton High School


" 'He looks like an athlete, a serious kid.' ... I've had people say to me, 'I always thought you were this serious, mean-looking guy.' "


Bubba Starling

was a kid, his parents didn’t believe in video games. They didn’t want him inside all day just lying around.

“They’d say, ‘Go outside, pick up a football or a ball, do something,” Bubba, 18, says.

How smart do Jim and Debbie Starling look now?

A senior at Gardner-Edgerton High, Bubba is considered the sixth best high school quarterback in the country. When it comes to a dual threat, a quarterback who can pass and rush, he jumps up to No. 3.

Ten Division 1 schools courted him before he even started his senior year. He’s made a verbal commitment to Nebraska (where he would play football and baseball). Around Gardner, in Johnson County, he has movie star status, where little girls want their picture taken with him. Through it all, Bubba shrugs a little and smiles a lot.

“People ask for my autograph and I’m like, ‘I’ve never signed an autograph before. What do you want me to do?’ ” he says. “People here are really supportive.”

There are downsides, too.

“There are people I’ve never talked to in my life, and they don’t like me for some reason,” he says. He’s learned to deal with it.

He admits he likes to win and will work hard to make sure he does. Sometimes, when he’s not smiling, he knows the intensity makes him look mean.

But, he says, he’s the funny guy in the crowd, the one who loves to be around kids and hang out with friends. And though he loves football, baseball and basketball, if he had to choose now, he thinks he’d opt for baseball. That’s a sport he’s been good at since he was a little kid playing on recreational teams.

Getting drafted by a Major League baseball team may be a hard offer to pass up. Right now, though, his heart is set on Nebraska.

“My family is set on me getting a good education,” Bubba says. “What if baseball doesn’t work out, then what?”

Three days a week she attends Longview Community College, finishing up her high school requirements and earning some college credits. At Longview, she feels accepted. Some Islamic teens go there, and other students have gotten to know her.

“Not everyone sees me as some weird person,” she says. “It’s pretty much the norm out there.”

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