From Tallahassee, FL. to the NFL, former USC strong safety Jawanza Starling has found a home in the professional ranks, signing with the Houston Texans as an undrafted free agent, following being passed up at the 2013 NFL Draft.
I thank God and the Houston Texans organization for giving me the opportunity!!! Now it’s up to me to make the most of it!! #MyDream
— Jawanza Starling (@JayStar_29) April 28, 2013
Starling was a three-year starter at USC, and just might have been the Trojans’ most improved player in each of his final two seasons in Los Angeles. In 2010 as a sophomore, Starling took over for Will Harris at strong safety and struggled as part of a secondary that started four new starters, including T.J. McDonald at free safety and Nickell Robey at corner. In 9 games, Starling had 37 tackles and one interception, while breaking up just one pass.
In his junior season, Starling broke out, making the biggest defensive play of the season, an 80-yard fumble recovery for a touchdown against Notre Dame that turned the tide in South Bend, in what was Lane Kiffin’s best coached game to date. Starling finished 2011 with 48 tackles, including 3.5 for loss.
As a senior, Starling was set to be an anchor of the defense alongside Robey and McDonald, and he would up blossoming against the pass, wrangling in three interceptions.
Starling’s ability to continuously improve his game, adding run defense prowess in 2011 and pass defense in 2012, make him a candidate to surprise people at the next level, even as a project.