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Carson-Newman's Sparks to keep coaching despite cancer spread

3:05 PM, Dec 13, 2012   |    comments
Ken Sparks
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During his continuing battle with cancer, Carson-Newman football coach Ken Sparks says he will stay on the sideline.

Sparks was diagnosed with prostate cancer in June, and has just announced it has spread to the bone.  He began treatment in the final week of the regular football season, and said the injections he is receiving have slowed the spread of the cancer.  In a press release, Sparks said, as with all decisions in his life, he turned to the Lord for guidance as to whether or not he should continue to coach.

"I'm not through coaching, I'm going to live every day as full as I can and max it out at every opportunity," Sparks said. "If I can make an impact, I'll do this till the day I die as long as (Carson-Newman president) Dr. Randall O'Brien and the folks at Carson-Newman are okay with this. It'd be a shame for me to quit on a group of kids that thinks they're going to win the national championship next year."

Sparks has just completed his 33rd season at the helm of the Carson-Newman football program, and plans to be there for the 34th.

"Everything that happens in our life, as a believer in Christ, is part of the big picture that's trying to grow us to be what he wants us to be," Sparks said. "He wants us to be difference makers and to be impactful with what we do in our lives. That's just the beginning of the story, that's not the end of the story.

Sparks is the 11th college football coach with 300 career victories. His career record of 308 wins, 83 losses and two ties is good for ninth on the all-time wins list.  But Sparks says it's not about the numbers.

"It's been a bigger battle to handle the acclaim of the 300th victory than it has been to go through cancer," Sparks said. "I just want to honor the Lord. I don't want this to be about me.

"I can think a whole lot of things to do aside from talking about myself. Winning 300 games is not about me. Cancer is not about me. I'm not here to glorify cancer, it won't control my life. I'll trust the Lord with everything."

Carson-Newman president Randall O'Brien has also announced the start of a new initiative at Carson-Newman, the Ken Sparks "Making a Difference" Academic Endowed Scholarship.

"We're honored that Ken is going to continue to be our football coach," O'Brien said. "We've asked coach Sparks if he would lend his name to this initiative providing academic scholarships to needy students to get a college education. His immediate response was, 'If we can do it for academics.'

"That's the other part of coach Sparks that might be under the surface. He fully realizes that in this world, you don't have opportunities without an education. Not everybody who needs a college education is equipped to play football."

You can make a contribution to the Ken Sparks "Making a Difference" Academic Endowed Scholarship here.

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