Ken Sparks documentary to debut at Knoxville Film Festival Sunday

JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn. – A documentary on legendary Carson-Newman head football coach Ken Sparks will premier Sunday at the Knoxville Film Festival.

“Sparks: The Ken Sparks Story” was directed by former Carson-Newman quarterback Jeff Joslin. The film debuts at 3:30 p.m. Sunday at the Regal Downtown West Cinema 8.  

Tickets can be purchased at the following link: https://www.knoxfilmfest.com/tickets/film-block-16

Carson-Newman students can get in free with their student IDs.  

For 46 years, Ken Sparks devoted his life, despite the sacrifices it demanded of him, to coach the game of football in such a way that it led players, coaches, families, and fans to Christ, and in so doing made the man a legend.

Sparks announced his retirement from Carson-Newman on Nov. 14, 2016. He finished his Carson-Newman career after 37 seasons, 338 wins, 99 losses and two ties.   His career-winning percentage of .769 is the fourth highest in college football history while the 338 victories amount to the fifth-best total nationally. 

However, those numbers mattered little to Sparks.  The Eagles’ headman was far more likely to ask a player, colleague or coach how their heart was and to guide them to a life in the light of Christ. 

Sparks himself lived his life at the foot of the cross, doing everything in his power to honor his Lord and Savior Jesus Christ at every turn.

Every year, he grounded the Carson-Newman football program in a theme that was rooted in a Bible verse. 

The 2016 team’s theme is a good example of that.  Before the season began, Sparks set the theme as me 2 We for HE.  The theme was based on Philippians 1:27 – “Just one thing: live your (me) life in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ (He), so (We) will be seen standing firm in one Spirit, with one mind, working side-by-side (we) for the gospel (He).” 

The legendary mentor passed away March 29, 2017, following a five-year battle with cancer. 

Sparks developed one of the winningest football programs in the history of the sport. The Eagles won five NAIA National Titles and played for it six times. A move to NCAA Division II didn’t slow Sparks’ Carson-Newman squad down. The Eagles played for the D-II National Title three times and were a semifinalist in 2009.

The rest of the numbers speak for themselves as Sparks has recorded 21 South Atlantic Conference Championships, 25 NCAA or NAIA playoff appearances, 104 All-Americans, and most recently, a street renamed after him that runs through the middle of Carson-Newman’s campus. 

Sparks was inducted into the inaugural NCAA Division II Hall of Fame Coaches Class in 2010 along with Northwest Missouri State’s Mel Tjeerdsma and West Alabama’s Bobby Wallace.

Sparks is also a member of the South Atlantic Conference Hall of Fame, the Knoxville Sports Hall of Fame, the Carson-Newman Athletic Hall of Fame, the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame and the NAIA Hall of Fame.

Sparks has been honored with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes Lifetime Achievement Award and National Coach of the Year. In 2002, Sparks received the All-American Football Foundation’s Johnny Vaught Lifetime Achievement Award. He is also a recipient of the FCA Grant Teaff Coach of the Year Award as well as the inaugural “Uncommon Award” presented by Tony Dungy.

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