PIGEON FORGE, Tenn. – Former NFL coaches Tony Dungy and Chan Gailey reflected on their faith and memories of Carson-Newman head coach Ken Sparks at the 2013 Carson-Newman Football Coaches Clinic, held at the Music Road Hotel and Convention Center on Friday night.
The coaches both addressed the capacity crowd inside the convention center, with both men emphasizing how faith and football can work hand-in-hand while praising the Carson-Newman football program.
"I'm sure there's people in this country that say, 'oh Tony Dungy, he's won a Super Bowl and done a great job he's done as a coach' and it's nothing compared to what Coach Sparks has done," said Dungy. "If I could trade places with him and accomplish half of the things he's done on the Carson-Newman campus I would've been totally happy."
Dungy, who earlier in the day spoke with the Carson-Newman football team and toured the campus, reflected on the first time he met Coach Sparks early in his coaching career.
"I met him at an FCA camp when I was still a young assistant coach with the Kansas City Chiefs," said Dungy. "He had such an impact on me and by the end of that week I just thought 'this is the type of coach I want to be.'
"If I ever got the chance to run a program I wanted to do it this way. Caring about people, really being in it to help your players be the best people they can be, and also to share my love of Christ. All of these things I learned from Ken Sparks."
Dungy has been a mentor to many NFL players throughout his years in coaching and also in recent years away to the game, and he said he admired how Sparks has shaped lives on the Carson-Newman campus.
"Seeing young men go from being 18-year old boys to 22-year old young men and to mature and grow and the fact that so many of them, he changes them for the better," said Dungy. "To me that's what coaching is all about and as I've said before, Coach Sparks is my hero."
Speaking to the crowd of coaches, Dungy said his goal was to reach them about life away from the gridiron and the impact they can have.
"I wanted to encourage the coaches to do more than just put out a winning football team," said Dungy.
Gailey closed the night's activities by reflecting on his time in football, as well as life lessons learned from the game in his career.
The coaches clinic will continue Saturday with more sessions led by the Carson-Newman coaching staff.