JEFFERSON CITY — Former NFL coach Tony Dungy presented Carson-Newman head football coach Ken Sparks with the inaugural Uncommon Award, which is meant to recognize an individual for their “uncommon leadership through character and faith.”
Sparks received the award last week at a banquet in Minneapolis, Minn., in which Minnesota Viking head coach Leslie Frazier was also a participant.
“It makes you think that maybe the Lord has used you to have some influence and some impact,” Sparks said. “That’s what we all want to do; we want to honor the Lord with some things that make a difference for eternity.
“The fact that it’s the first one ever picked, that it’s picked by Tony Dungy – that makes it special. I receive it on behalf of the Lord and on behalf of every kid that played for me – because they’ve been uncommon as well.”
The weekend was especially meaningful to Sparks because he was able to witness 300 professions of faith at the event. “We started the weekend with 6,000 men in an (assembly hall). They heard from a couple of all-pro players who played for Tony (Dungy) give their testimony,” Sparks said. “300 of them made a decision that they wanted to live for the Lord, and that’s always exciting to be a part of.”
The statue for the Uncommon Award is adorned with representations of Dungy’s father Wilbur Dungy, Martin Luther King Jr., and Dungy’s college coach Cal Stoll.
“It’s very humbling,” Sparks said. “To know that it’s not about you. To know that a guy coaching at Carson-Newman, who has chosen to be at Carson-Newman for most of his career, it means a lot that the Lord can encourage him by letting him know that what he’s done does make a difference.”
He’s been touted this year as the Jefferson Countian of the Year and has taken home lifetime achievement awards from the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and the American Football Coaches Association.
Sparks enters his 34th year coaching the Eagles this fall. He’s won 308 games in his career and is six away from tying Roy Kidd and Amos Alonzo Stagg for seventh on the all-time wins list for any division.