First, the good news for Nebraska fans: As promised, 2011 signee Bubba Starling is still on track to his much-anticipated arrival on campus this weekend, to join "voluntary" workouts with the football team. The bad news? With a contract offer and fat signing bonus from the hometown Kansas City Royals staring him the face, the K.C. Star reports Starling still isn't ready to enroll in classes yet, either, and never will if his newest suitor has anything to say about it:
Down one path is a dream of helping his hometown team win a World Series, but the other is equally tempting — leading the storied Nebraska football program into the Big Ten era, chasing BCS titles and Rose Bowl berths.
"We've come a few steps closer to making a decision, but I haven't made a final choice yet," Starling said.
The Royals, of course, would prefer to sign Starling early, before the Aug. 15 deadline, and get his development under way.
Starling will not enroll in classes at Nebraska, but he will begin workouts at quarterback and practice drills with the offense.
"I don't think the Royals want to see me up there," Starling said.
If this was the "love triangle" episode of a bad sitcom, this would be the point in the point in the script where the shallow best friend reminds our protagonist to think about the money, man. As a high first-round draft pick with options, Starling could likely command a signing bonus from the club in the neighborhood of $7 million over several years, and will likely ask for even more. Beyond the money, the Royals also offer him a chance to play in his hometown, for his favorite team, with which he's forged a few compelling connections. If he doesn't sign by the Aug. 15 deadline, it will be three years until he's eligible to enter the draft again in 2014. The money, the location and the long-term forecasts for Starling's future all point to baseball.
In the same analogy (and only in this analogy), Nebraska is the Manic Pixie Dream Girl who reminds the hero to forget the money and follow his heart. Starling is also one of the most promising quarterbacks of the incoming 2011 recruiting class, and is certainly athletic enough to crack the Cornhuskers' depth chart at another position this fall if he's not ready to push the incumbent, Taylor Martinez, who proved himself last year as a promising athlete in his own right as a redshirt freshman. Starling's father told the Lincoln Journal-Star in May that his son is "going to Nebraska to play football," and aside from the delayed enrollment — the second session of summer classes begins on Monday — he's remained on that path. If he does decide to turn down the money for at least another year on the gridiron, he wouldn't be the first.
Unlike a few of his dual-sport forebears — Jake Locker at Washington, for example — there's no evidence that Starling's heart is primarily in Nebraska or football in general. If anything, considering he grew up a Royals fan and once called getting drafted by his favorite team his "dream scenario," it's probably the opposite. The 'Huskers still have a few weeks to change his mind, but if a three-to-five-year stint in Lincoln, Nebraska, beats out a few million for the chance to stay in Kansas City, it might go down as one of the biggest upsets in school history.
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Matt Hinton is on Twitter: Follow him @DrSaturday.