The game room at the Starling home in Dade City pays homage to a family tree with roots that trace back to the first Pasco football team in 1933, with pictures and stories and memories scattered about.
Bill Starling, and his brother Charlie, played on that team. Bill played without shoes sometimes, the story goes, because not everyone could afford shoes.
A picture of him in a Pasco football uniform sits on a mantel in the room.
Bill’s sons, Edward and Virgil, played running back and end in the 1950s. Edward scored a county-record seven touchdowns — eight if you count the one he says was called back because of a penalty — in one game, which he topped by winning a state baseball championship in 1957, which he topped by becoming Dade City mayor, and then he topped that by raising two more Pasco Pirates, and nothing tops that in Dade City.
A picture of him in a Pasco football uniform sits on a mantel in the room, right next to Bill’s.
Edward’s sons, Brad and Mike, played at Pasco in the 1980s. Mike was a linebacker.
Brad was a quarterback, who led Pasco to the 1983 state semifinals, and when the Tampa Bay Times ranked the top 99 players in county history in 2000, he was the highest-ranked Starling at No. 58, a few spots ahead of his dad.
Brad coached on the 1992 state champion, and is now the offensive coordinator.
A picture of him in a Pasco football uniform sits on a mantel in the room, next to Bill and Edward.
And the picture next to Brad?
His son, Grant, in a Pasco football uniform, who will start at quarterback Friday.
Being a Starling, Brad says, is special and unique. Zephyrhills has the Picketts, and Land O’Lakes has the Weatherfords, but no one has roots back to a time men walked around in $1.95 slacks and drove $600 cars and Franklin Delano Roosevelt was settling in for the first year of his first term as president.
He couldn’t imagine his kids playing anywhere else, and truth be told even, he can’t imagine his grandchildren playing anywhere else either.
He’ll make room on the mantel.
“I used to think if I ever moved away, we’d have to move back to Dade City for at least one year so my sons (Grant and Jake, a sophomore) could play one season at Pasco just to keep it going,” Brad said.
It’s hard to tell if he was joking.
Photo: Grant Starling, courtesy of Brad Starling