- Associated Press - Sunday, July 27, 2014

FORT SMITH, Ark. (AP) - A former defensive end for Arkansas State and star at Northside High School has moved on to the pros in state law enforcement.

Tim Starson, 25, of Fort Smith has been assigned to the Arkansas State Police Highway Patrol Division, Troop C in Mississippi County. Starson graduated in June with 27 other state police recruits and is in the middle of a 12-week transitional period with his certified departmental field training officer, according to a news release from Bill Sadler with the Arkansas State Police.

“I’ve always had a desire to be in law enforcement,” Starson said. “The state police have always stood out to me. I feel like they’re one of the premiere law-enforcement agencies in Arkansas - the best in my opinion.”

Before joining the ranks of state law enforcement, Starson was a three-year letterman and starting defensive end at Northside High School. He recorded 80 tackles, eight sacks and nine tackles for loss as a senior - the same year he was named Outstanding Lineman of the Year and Defensive Newcomer of the Year and selected all-state, according to biographical information on the Arkansas State Red Wolves website.

Starson got a full athletic scholarship in 2008 to join the Red Wolves. He redshirted his first year, but after having just three tackles in nine games in the 2009 season, coaching staff were unsure that Starson would live up to his potential. Former Arkansas State defensive coordinator John Thompson said he saw a tremendous change in Starson during the spring before his senior year.

“He was really on the verge of being an average player. We weren’t sure if this was the guy,” Thompson said. “We challenged him and he responded. The last couple weeks of spring practice, he kicked tail and really was dominant. He had a great summer and a great senior year.”

Starson recorded 73 tackles in all 13 games of the Red Wolves’ 2012 season, along with 13 tackles for loss and five sacks. He played in the 2013 and 2012 GoDaddy.com Bowls, against Kent State and Northern Illinois, respectively. Thompson led the Red Wolves to victory against Kent State after Gus Malzahn left to coach Auburn.

“Everybody was better on our team because of the kind of teammate and the kind of worker and the kind of player he was,” Thompson said. “He was always fun to be around. . With the grind that we go through in football, you’ve got to have some humor sometimes. He had a great sense of humor.”

Starson said he got particularly interested in the state police after he got to know Lt. Robert Speer, an Arkansas State Police trooper assigned to travel with the team who himself was a defensive end for the Red Wolves in the ‘70s.

“He came by the office one day. We talked for a long time and I gave him a couple of videos from troop school,” Speer said. “I got to interact and watch him for five years and grow up, and we became friends.”

By the time Starson graduated, he had heard from plenty of NFL scouts that he could have a shot at minicamp. Unfortunately, he got hurt in workouts before the combine.

About a year ago, Starson went to Elite 24 Health Club in Fort Smith, where he met Brian Foster, a local professional MMA fighter who introduced him to the sport. Starson started training, and by October had his first victory in a fight in Fort Smith.

“He’s a high-driven man; he’s a hell of an athlete,” Foster said. “He did great. He just had a couple of those beginning flaws. I haven’t had a whole lot of experience with heavyweights, but he made it easy.”

Starson was set to make his professional MMA debut when he got on the fight card at a match in Fort Worth. Before he got the opportunity, he suffered a broken rib and tore some cartilage in a training bout.

“I couldn’t do anything for about three weeks before troop school,” Starson said. “It was a crazy time.”

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