‘Bigger things than winning and losing:’ Andrews football player with special needs makes tackle

Published: Sep. 26, 2022 at 11:02 PM CDT
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LUBBOCK, Texas (KCBD) - The Lubbock High Westerners and the Andrews Mustangs ended Friday night’s high school football game with a moment both teams will never forget, allowing Evan Sparks, a senior with special needs, the final tackle.

Sparks has played football for a couple of years now, mostly on the junior varsity team. He hadn’t had the chance to make a big play in a varsity game yet, until Friday night. The Mustangs were up 64-14 over Lubbock High with only seconds left on the scoreboard. The student section thought it was the perfect moment to let Sparks shine, yelling ‘We want Sparky, We want Sparky.’

Lubbock High Head Football Coach Juan Rodriguez heard what was happening, and knew this was the perfect opportunity for a teaching moment.

“I said, but this is an opportunity for you to understand the moment. Understand that, you know, there are things outside of football, sometimes there are a lot more important things that we need to focus on,” Rodriguez said.

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Andrews Head Coach Tom Harvey says the next thing he knew, Rodriguez was calling a timeout.

“He calls the official over and he sends the official over to tell us and says, ‘You could put #34 in. We won’t touch him,” Harvey said.

Harvey sent Sparks onto the field and magic happened. Westerner Sean Briceno ran to his side and Sparks landed the big tackle to end the game.

“Honestly, nervous and shocked that I was able to go out and make that tackle. I mean, big win for us, especially during homecoming. It was amazing,” Sparks said.

The firecracker he is, Sparks ran to the sideline after the tackle to pump up the crowd. Coach Rodriguez knew something amazing would happen, but he didn’t know the full reason why. Sparks has one lung, severe scoliosis, neuropathy, gets his nutrients through a feeding tube, and waited years for his doctor’s approval to play football. His mom, Jamie Moore, says the moment was a dream come true.

“Just standing up, chanting, ‘That’s my kid right there.’ I cried. It was amazing, it was an amazing moment,” Moore said.

“It was a joy to be a part of it. It wasn’t me, like I said, it was a God thing and it started with Coach Rodriguez on the other sideline actually,” Harvey said.

Harvey says Rodriguez is in the business for the right reasons and is the right guy for the job.

“This act of kindness is going to be bigger than what you’ll ever, I said, bigger than what the score is right now. And I said, you’ll understand, you may not understand it all tonight. But, as you breathe it and understand it and you live it, you’re definitely going to remember this play for a long long time,” Rodriguez said.

Harvey says Sparks’ tackle was the perfect ending to a great night. His players nominated several other students with special needs to be on the homecoming court.