MORRISTOWN (WATE) – Two days after the death of legendary Carson Newman football coach Ken Sparks, hundreds of friends and family members gathered at Morristown’s Manley Baptist Church in remembrance of the iconic coach.
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Former players under Sparks say the Division II Hall of Fame coach impacted their lives both on and off the field.
“He had such an incredible impact on my life. He taught me it wasn’t sinful to compete, it was okay to want to win, but you keep it in the right priority,” said Marty Blakely who played for Sparks in the mid-80’s.
“Cancer didn’t win, sin didn’t win. It’s a mixed day for us. We’re hurting that he’s gone, but we can celebrate because we know where he is.”
Sparks finished his Carson-Newman career after 37 seasons, 338 wins, 99 losses and two ties. His career winning percentage of .7699 is the fourth highest in college football history while the 338 victories amount to the fifth-best total in the nation.
David Needs was quarterback on Sparks’ back-to-back national championship teams in 1988 and 1989 and says he knows all about Coach Sparks winning ways.
“I told somebody he got another win yesterday. He always told me, David I don’t have everything figured out, but when I get to heaven I’ll get to ask God,” said Needs.
“He always said, ‘I can’t draw up the perfect play, but when I get to heaven maybe I’ll ask God what that would be.’ Well he’s got it.”
A funeral for Sparks was held about an hour after his receiving of friends and family.
Coach Sparks passed away after a long battle with cancer on Tuesday at the age of 73.