Sparks accepts PHS football position

January 15, 2013

Cody Leist

PDT Sports Writer

The Daily Times learned Tuesday Portsmouth High School is set to hire Jason Sparks as its newest head football coach pending final board approval.

Sparks, 30, will take over the reigns of a Trojan program that has been under the leadership of Curt Clifford for the previous three-plus decades. Sparks, who was offered and accepted the job over the weekend, was selected from a pool of an estimated 40 applicants that came from as far as Texas and Florida.

For the past three seasons, Sparks has been on the coaching staff at Southern Pines (NC) Pinecrest High School. He was the team’s assistant head coach, defensive coordinator, special teams coordinator as well as the strength and conditioning coordinator.

“We’re just extremely excited, humbled and just thankful for everything,” Sparks said as a reference to he and his wife in an exclusive interview with the Daily Times Tuesday afternoon about the position. “The hiring committee of (Portsmouth Superintendent Scott) Dutey, (Portsmouth High School Principal Doug) Poage, (PHS Athletic Director Joe) Albrecht, (Portsmouth City School Board President Clarence) Parker and (PCSB member Mary) Sommer, they were all outstanding to meet with. It was very comfortable both times I interviewed, it felt like — I don’t want to say it felt like old friends talking — but it was very comfortable to sit down and discuss things.”

This will be the first head coaching job for the former Morehead State defensive tackle. His first experience in football outside of the pads came in 2005 when he was a student assistant video manager for the Eastern Kentucky football team and then-head coach Danny Hope. From 2008-2012, Hope was the head football coach at Purdue.

After receiving his bachelor’s degree from EKU, Sparks went on to one-year stints with Albright (PA) College, Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College and Mississippi College. With Mississippi Gulf Coast C.C., he was a part of the 2007 NJCAA National Championship team as a defensive line coach and assistant strength and conditioning coordinator.

He coached defensive linemen Jack Hayes, Cedric McKinley and Terrance Cody, who went on to sign with Division I BCS schools Kansas State, Minnesota and Alabama respectively. Cody is currently on the Baltimore Ravens active roster while McKinley is a member of the Minnesota Vikings practice squad.

In all, the 2007 National Championship team has six members of its defense that went on to have NFL experience.

Sparks is also taking part in the USA Football coaching staff for his second-straight season. Last year, he was the U-15 assistant head coach and defensive coordinator. This year, he will have the same duties with the U-18 team.

Albrecht said Sparks was the final applicant to interview during the first round. After their Dec. 20 meeting, the group was impressed.

“After he left, we looked at each other and said we’ve got to get this gentleman back,” Albrecht said. “He just has that type of personality, he’s very dynamic and what struck me the most was with him being so positive.”

Sparks mentioned that Jan. 25-28 will more than likely be his next visit to Portsmouth. The Trojans open the 2013 season Aug. 31 when they host Valley.

Cody Leist can be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 294, or cleist@heartlandpublications.com.