A Diamond in the Rough
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My friend and colleague Rodney Hays at the Prosper Press is always pointing out to me that his town is the home of one of the NFL’s best defensive backs, Deion Sanders.
Until recently, I just had to grin and let him vent about the exploits of “Primetime,” Sanders’ self-anointed nickname. However, I was informed that, in our own midst, resides a defensive back with similar talents who also wore number 21. Until now, her gridiron exploits have gone largely unnoticed.
Yes, you read that right, I said H-E-R.
While “Primetime” was some sports agent’s idea, Starlene Elizabeth Wolfe has her grandparents to thank for her non-typical first name. And at the age of 11, it became simply Star.
“My name was hard for some of my friends to pronounce and they just started calling me Star,” Duncan explained. “I was the typical tom-boy, always wanting to play sports, not with dolls, and that’s the way I grew up.”
Duncan was raised in the Mid-Cities area, and she participated in all the sports available to girls at that time. “I played basketball, volleyball, cheer. I ran track, not for long, though.”
Duncan got married and began raising two active boys, Shane and Shawn, but never drifted too far away from a bucket list of things she wanted to do.
In 2002, she heard on the Kidd Kraddick radio show that a new sports venture would be started in the area as the Dallas Diamonds would begin play in the Women’s Professional Football League. Teams such as the Austin Rage, Missouri Prowlers and Arizona Calientes, among others, would be formed to get the inaugural season started.
Tryouts were going to be held in the Mid-Cities, and nearly 500 players showed up for the first day of practice. The first cuts narrowed the team down to 85 girls who would go through “Hell Week.”
The pretenders were quickly weeded out from the contenders, and Duncan, all 121 pounds of her, earned a spot on the 30-player traveling squad, wearing the number 21.
“At the time, I was a big fan of Deion Sanders. Now, not so much,” Duncan said.
I asked about some of the most memorable events of her time with the Diamonds
“I will never forget one of our first road trips was to Phoenix, and we were all wearing our Dallas Diamonds travel uniforms and everybody in the airport was staring at us and we thought, ‘Oh, they recognize us.’ When we walked outside and found out it was about 114 degrees, we knew why they were staring,” recalled Duncan.
One of the big kicks she got while with the Diamonds, according to Star, was the twice-weekly trips to practice. Beforehand, Duncan would drop off sons Shane and Shawn for their youth football practice sessions. All the moms in the stands, making sure that Bubba didn’t get his feelings hurt, were taken aback when Duncan would step out of the jacked-up pickup she drove and tell the boys to have fun, already dressed in her practice pants with eye-black and wrist bands.
While the other moms were discussing window treatments and Pilates, All the moms in the stands, making sure that Bubba didn’t get his feelings hurt would be having her own fun on the Diamonds’ practice field with her team.
“I loved playing football, everything about it,” she says today.
Six games into the season, Star’s Dallas Diamond adventure came to a painful end as she suffered a torn ACL that cut short her gridiron career.
“Yeah, there was pain associated with that, but I did what I set out to do, I proved something to myself,” Duncan said.
It also allowed her to turn the tables on Dallas Cowboy players Terrance Newman and Roy Williams. The two were appearing at an autograph session at a Dallas shopping center, passing out signed pictures to the awed crowd. Duncan called one of their handlers over and asked him to pass along her autographed picture in full Dallas Diamonds uniform.
“I just wanted to see what they would do,” she said.
They called her over, had a good laugh and talked football, probably knocking another item off of her bucket list.
That’s a path she continues on today.
Last hunting season, Duncan had her first successful bow-hunting trip and she has completed a marathon along with close friend Christy Oldfield. The two have plans to one day compete in an Iron-Man competition, just to prove something more.
Before that, however, there’s the little matter of watching son Shawn play receiver at Van Alstyne High.
How many moms can have dinner table conversation’s with their sons going something like “Mom, they keep jamming me on the line of scrimmage. I can’t get open.” “Yes you can, I used to do that.”
Duncan also finds time to watch daughter Avery play volleyball at the middle school, as well as running her business in Van Alstyne, the Head to Toe salon.
There is one thing Duncan never got to do during her playing days — a planned end zone celebration after picking off a pass in a crucial situation. It was all to be choreographed to Pink’s Get the Party Started.
It wouldn’t be done to show-up an opponent, after all, just to prove something to herself.