KANSAS CITY, Mo. (WATE) – Former Carson Newman Head Coach Ken Sparks will be inducted into Fellowship of Christian Athletes Hall of Champions.
Coach Sparks will be inducted into the Hall of Champions on March 10 in Pigeon Forge. Over the years, honorees have been made up of a mix of coaches, athletes and volunteers who serve the ministry, including sports greats such as Bobby Bowden, Tony Dungy, Tom Landry, Tom Osborne and Roger Staubach.
“The Fellowship of Christian Athletes is honored to welcome Ken Sparks into the 2017 Hall of Champions,” said FCA President and CEO Shane Williamson. “Ken is a wonderful example of a servant-leader whose commitment to impacting coaches and athletes for Jesus Christ has been on display for more than 30 years. We are so thankful for how he has given of himself toward the success of this ministry—all in an effort to help change lives through sports, FCA and God’s grace and guidance.”
During the ceremony, a special prayer will be offered for Sparks and his wife. Those who nominated Sparks will also be in attendance to share their thoughts on Sparks’ life.
One nominator, Clyde Christensen, offensive coordinator for the Miami Dolphins said that Sparks has been a model leader for 30 years as he tried to live out his calling as a Christian coach, husband and father.
“Coach Sparks has embodied everything a Christian coach should be,” Christensen wrote. “He has labored passionately to see his players and staff have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, living their lives sold out to Him. He did this for 37 years as head coach at Carson-Newman University. Dozens of times, I have participated with and witnessed Ken presenting the Gospel to his team. I know of no other coach who has more boldly shared and displayed Christ, longing for his players, coaches and family to walk in faith. He has done this while coaching at a high level, winning 338 games, as well as league titles and multiple national championships.”
J. Randall O’Brien, president of Carson-Newman, said that Sparks places Jesus Christ at the center of his football program, boldly and unapologetically, with Matthew 6:33 at the heart. “As a former leader of FCA on my college campus in the ’70s,” O’Brien wrote, “I am aware that FCA values include integrity, serving, teamwork and excellence. Believe me, Ken Sparks preaches these values, lives these values, and instills them into his young men. He has been 100 percent supportive of FCA in my tenure as president of Carson-Newman.”
Sparks began coaching at the age of 19 while a freshman at the University of Tennessee, when he felt the Lord calling him to coach a midget league football team. He saw coaching as his vocation from the beginning. Sparks went on to coach football at Farragut High School in Knoxville and then served as the head football coach at Carson-Newman for 37 years.
The legendary coach was diagnosed with cancer on June 30, 2012. He credits his faith with bringing him to Carson-Newman in 1980 and says his faith will see him through his latest challenge.