The term student-athlete doesn’t always apply when talking about high-profile prep athletes, but it’s definitely the correct description for Norman senior Ben Sparks.
Sparks excels on and off the field and the highly coveted offensive lineman proved it recently when he committed to play for SMU. He chose the Mustangs over offers from several top schools, including Harvard, where his dad, John, played and older brother, Hunt, currently plays.
“My dad told me when I started to get recruited and even when my brother was getting recruited,” said Sparks, “that you don’t have to go there just because I did. I want you to go where you want to go. I’m super thankful for that.”
“I definitely considered Harvard,” admitted Sparks. “It wasn’t like, ‘Harvard doesn’t play this level of football. I don’t want to go there.’ There wasn’t anything wrong with any of those schools. It was just SMU is where I want to be.”
SMU gained the upper hand in the recruiting battle by making Sparks think about what he wants to do when his playing career is over.
“They really just preached life after football,” said Sparks. “I really enjoyed the coaching staff and just the whole Dallas area, that just really stuck out to me and what kind of got me.”
“Obviously, Ben is a student-athlete, said Norman Head Coach Rocky Martin. “He’s a student first, no doubt about it. He knows that’s the future. He approaches his class work with as much intensity as he does on the football field. And it shows.”
One of Sparks’ unique traits is that he not only leads by example, but he’s also one of the team’s most vocal leaders.
“His work ethic is what really shines,” replied the Tigers’ third-year coach. “The kids see what he’s doing in the weight room and how he practices and how he approaches that part of it, but he’s one who will get the team going by being very vocal.”
Norman is off to a solid start this season and the Tigers are hoping to overcome the disappointment of last season, where they suffered a heartbreaking 31-28 loss to Owasso in the first round of the playoffs.
“That’s been a bad taste in our mouth throughout the summer and in practice about how long and how horrible that bus ride was,” admitted Sparks. “We’re on pace to do some big things, which I’m pretty excited about.”
The 6A-I showdown will feature two of the top quarterbacks in the state. Norman’s Cade Horton is committed to play football and baseball at the University of Oklahoma and Moore’s Daniel Hishaw, Jr., is committed to Kansas.
“He can make every throw in the book,” said Martin of Horton. “He has great vision. He has the ability to extend plays because he’s a dual threat. He’s a really special player.”
“It’s always tough to game plan against him (Hishaw),” added Martin. “The big thing is trying to contain him. You can’t let him get outside or let him break free. He runs the ball as good as anyone in the state, so we’ve got our work cut out for us.”
Sparks and the rest of the Norman Tigers host Moore this week live in Ford Game of the Week on Yurview Cox Channel 3 on Thursday, September 19, 2019, at 7:00 p.m. and streamed live on Yurview.com.