According to Lincoln head coach Kyle Rice, nobody has pushed recruiting to the side to zero in on the task at hand more, than his standout safety Jawanza Starling.
"He really devoted all his focus to Lincoln football," Rice stated.
With the 6-foot-2, 190-pound Starling leading the way, Lincoln rebounded from a 3-3 start to find its way into the Florida 4-A state title game against Plant. Unfortunately, they were defeated 34-14, but still finished the special season 11-4.
"Obviously as a player, he's certainly incredibly special," Rice said. Starling went into the state championship game with 86 tackles, seven pass breakups, two forced fumbles and an interception. He also played some receiver during the season.
"His role in turning the season around was much more from a leadership standpoint. He had expectations of his teammates, and they had expectations of him, and he fulfilled their expectations, and he was able to let them know here we go, here is what the plan is, lets make this happen."
With Starling putting off such a big decision to focus on Lincoln football, it earned him the utmost respect from everybody in the program.
"That's an awesome thing for a kid to set aside," Rice said. "His individual goals were solely for what the team was interested in. Obviously when Notre Dame has a player about to leave for the NFL, they still want him focusing on his last games. And that's kind of the same deal with Jawanza. He's been very adamant that he wanted to win a state championship, that was his goal, and after that he'd start working the recruiting issues when that was over with.
"I was sitting in the office one day, and Jawanza and told one of the other coaches, I haven't thought about (recruiting), I'm just trying to beat our next opponent. Honestly, we haven't discussed (recruiting) at all."
Now, the time has come.
With over 40 scholarship offers, seven programs are recruiting Starling more than anyone else, and those schools appear to be the leaders in landing his signature on a letter-of-intent. They are Notre Dame, Stanford, Florida, Florida State, Georgia, LSU and USC.
"Pretty much all seven are around once a week," Rice said.
Representing Notre Dame has been defensive coordinator Corwin Brown, and Bernie Parmalee, the assistant coach responsible for recruiting the state of Florida.
"Coach Brown has been down quite a bit, and coach Parmalee is in contact quite a bit as well. They've been in just about every week.
"Awesome guys," Rice stated. "Coach Brown and I have had quite a bit of time this fall to sit and visit. Just a great, great man, and I really enjoy spending time with him. Haven't had as much time to spend with coach Parmalee this fall, with Jawanza being a defensive player, but the time I have spent with him, I have a ton of respect for him and enjoy getting together with him."
Rice hasn't talked much recruiting with Starling, but Notre Dame has come up on a couple of occasions.
"Anytime Notre Dame recruits you, it's an honor," Rice began. "Jawanza has a great appreciation for the history of the school, and the football tradition at Notre Dame, and has a great appreciation for what a scholarship to Notre Dame would mean. He's honored to be in that situation."
Starling, who has a GPA that is hovering around 4.0, has yet to have any in-home visits with coaches and his family. Head coaches like Charlie Weis have been waiting patiently for Starling to turn his attention towards recruiting before making the trip to Tallahassee.
"Everybody kind of throws their hat in, and the thing about all the schools recruiting Jawanza, is they've been appreciative of his stance, and they think that's a high-character thing," Rice explained. "They've honored that, and they just wanted to let him know they were there and very interested, and when he's done with Lincoln football stuff, that they were there ready for him to show interest in each respective school."
Starling has yet to set any of his five official visits.