Quarterback-turned-holder overcomes three torn ACLs to get the job done.
Tommy Birch/The Register
AMES, Ia. — It would have been easy for Kyle Starcevich to give up.
Starcevich was a walk-on holder for the Cyclones when he suffered his third torn ACL just four weeks before the start of the 2016 season.
For most players that would have been enough. But Starcevich wasn’t quite ready to call it quits on his football career or his dream of playing at Jack Trice Stadium.
“Any way to get on the field, any way to help the team that I can — that’s what I was trying to do,” Starcevich said. “Ever since I’ve gotten here, that’s all I’ve really wanted to do.”
Getting on the field was what drove the Altoona native to start paying his own way through college and to eventually play through a torn ACL.
“It’s cool to be a part of something bigger than yourself,” Starcevich said. “Multiple times I’ve asked myself why I’m still playing football. ‘Why am I still doing this?’ Being a part of something bigger than yourself like this, it’s cool. These memories will last a lifetime, and I’ll have no regrets when I leave here.”
It’s been a long ride for the former star quarterback at Southeast Polk, where he passed for 2,244 yards and 24 touchdowns as a senior. Starcevich, who walked on to the Iowa State football team, hoped he would be in the quarterback picture for the Cyclones after a few seasons in the program.
Iowa State sports columnist Randy Peterson and sports reporter Tommy Birch look at Iowa State’s week off to recuperate and get ready for Texas.
Rodney White/The Register
It hasn’t gone that way.
Starcevich sat out the 2013 season as a greyshirt, the 2014 season as a redshirt and didn’t get on the field during the 2015 season as a quarterback buried on the depth chart. But before the 2016 season, an opportunity opened up elsewhere.
The coaching staff asked the 6-foot-3, 224-pound backup if he’d be interested in trying out for a spot as a holder. Starcevich, who had done some holding as a sophomore in high school, jumped at the chance. So he spent the summer working with snapper Quinn Sonntag and kicker Cole Netten.
The three clicked.
As the 2016 season approached, Starcevich was set to take over the starting holder spot. But on Iowa State’s second day of fall camp, Starcevich — still working at quarterback — threw a pass that was picked off. He chased down the defender, made a bad cut and went down.
Starcevich, who had torn the ACL on his right leg twice in high school, tore his ACL on his left leg.
“I thought there was no way I was going to be able to go out there the first game,” he said.
That didn’t stop Starcevich from trying. He rehabbed his knee and got some strength and range of motion back. He put on a brace and spoke to trainers and team doctors, who signed off on him playing with the injury.
“Everybody was pulling for me — even coach (Matt) Campbell,” Starcevich said. “The day I tore it, he’s like, ‘You’re still going to hold this year.’ I was like, alright, enough people believe in me that I had no doubt going out there for the first game.”
When Iowa State opened the season against Northern Iowa on Sept. 3, 2016, Starcevich ran out onto the field and was the team’s holder.
“I didn’t think I would be able to jog out for the pregame,” he said.
While many fans probably won’t recognize his contributions to the football team, his work hasn’t gone unnoticed by Campbell. One day before Starcevich was scheduled to undergo surgery on his knee after the season, Campbell informed him he was being put on scholarship.
“I thought the commitment he was able to make for his team and his teammates to hold surgery off and to do a great job last year — I thought he did a tremendous job,” Campbell said. “You couldn’t have been prouder for him.”
Starcevich’s plan to become Iowa State’s quarterback never did happen. These days he’s focused on holding. But when his career does come to a close, he’ll have plenty to remember.
One of the biggest highlights came when Starcevich made national news following Iowa State’s spring game, proposing to his longtime girlfriend Tori Monroe on the field. The moment landed on SportsCenter.
When quarterback Kyle Starcevich took a knee after this years Iowa State spring game, it wasn’t the coach he was looking up too. The redshirt junior asked his girlfriend of five years for her hand in marriage.
Starcevich, an avid artist, also recently completed a mural depicting some of Iowa State’s best players in the hallway of the team’s complex. Following summer workouts, Starcevich would stay behind to work on his piece.
“I can bring my kids back to see that or I can bring my grandkids someday to see that,” he said. “It’s something cool. It’s unique… it’s something special that I can definitely leave here.”
Starcevich has one year of eligibility remaining, but aims to wrap up his football career when the season is done. He graduates in the fall and plans to get a job afterward. He even hopes to do some illustrating for children’s books.
“He’s a guy that’s got elite work ethic, but he’s a person that embodies everything you hope that our program stands for going forward and what it’s about,” Campbell said.
Starcevich is happy for the opportunity Campbell gave him — especially after his latest injury.
“Any other coach throughout the country probably would have said, ‘Oh, bring the next guy in,’” Starcevich said. “But that says a lot about coach Campbell and his staff. They all believed in me.
“There wasn’t a doubt in their mind that I could do it.”
Starcevich’s career hasn’t at all gone like he thought it would. Altogether, he’s been through four knee surgeries, three ACL injuries and procedures to take care of some meniscus damage and arthritis.
Still, the nearly 23-year-old is happy about how everything has panned out.
“I wouldn’t change my plan for anything or my career for anything,” he said. “It kind of happened the way it did, and I think it all happens for a reason and it worked out perfectly in my eyes.”
Source: Des Moines Register
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