Charles Sparkman played four years with the Tennessee State University football team. He graduated with a bachelor's degree in speech communications and began studying for his master's degree during his senior season on the field. He was a recipient of the 2010 Male Academic Scholar Award and has been named to the Ohio Valley Conference Commissioner's Honor Roll a number of times.
TSUTigers sat down with Mr. Sparkman to talk about his TSU experience.
C. Sparkman: My overall TSU experience was great. I was fortunate to be on full scholarship the whole time I was here so I never had to experience the stories I heard about other people standing in Financial Aid lines for hours and sometimes days at the beginning of each school year. I was always able to just get up, eat breakfast, and go to class.
TSUTigers: What do you love most about TSU?
C. Sparkman: The thing I love most about TSU is the students. In my time here I found that for the most part, everyone is pretty nice once you get to know them. Furthermore, I also found that we all are willing to help one another to attain the common goal every one of us has; which is to graduate.
TSUTigers: What will you miss most about TSU?
C. Sparkman: The thing I'll miss most about TSU is my teammates. No matter what was going on in my academic or personal life, in addition to God, I always had my brothers on the team, whether it was on the practice field or in the weight room, who used laughter to uplift my spirit on a daily basis.
TSUTigers: What is your most memorable football moment at TSU?
C. Sparkman: My most memorable football moment at TSU would have to be the time I went in the game at full back against Southeast Missouri State during the 2008 season and their whole defense was shouting, "Watch 69. Watch 69. Here he go. They comin' this way." As an offensive lineman you're never in the other teams scouting report. So it was pretty cool to see what quarterbacks, running backs, wide receivers, and tight ends feel like every Saturday as they step on the field of play.
TSUTigers: What is your most memorable non-football moment at TSU?
C. Sparkman: My most memorable non-football moment is definitely when I gave my life to Christ and formed a relationship with him at FCA camp on February 9, 2008.
TSUTigers: What advice would you give to incoming freshman?
C. Sparkman: My advice to incoming freshman is to go to class.
TSUTigers: What was your most challenging class at TSU?
C. Sparkman: Believe it or not, the class that challenged me the most was freshman orientation. Growing up in Nashville I felt I knew all there was to know about this university. So I hated being in there for an hour and 25 minutes twice a week. But, I didn't know as much as I thought because I got a B in that class.
TSUTigers: You completed your bachelor's degree last year and played your final season as a graduate student. Talk about that experience.
C. Sparkman: Playing football as a graduate student was pretty cool. I loved how in all my classes I had a four day weekend every week. I didn't even realize any of the holidays we had during the fall because I already had those days off anyway. Although the spare time was nice and soothing, I paid for it when finals came around and those papers and final projects were due at once.
TSUTigers: What are you studying in graduate school?
C. Sparkman: I'm studying to become a physical educator. My first degree was in telecommunications, however, I know how demanding that field is on your time and the sacrifices one has to make especially if they have a family. So I chose to become a certified physical educator and get a Master's in Curriculum and Instruction so when my days as a camera guy are over I'll have another fun profession to go in to.
TSUTigers: What organizations were you a part of besides football?
C. Sparkman: In addition to football, I was a part of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, Golden Key Honor Society, and the sports anchor for TSU-TV News 98.
TSUTigers: Who have been the most influential people to you at TSU?
C. Sparkman: There's no doubt that all my instructors have left a lasting impression on me, especially the ones who have been here a long time and some who even completed their undergraduate degrees here. I've also been heavily influenced by some of my football coaches. However, the people who influenced me the most are the custodians. I don't know why but I made time to get to know a few in the buildings where my classes were held and the gentleman who cleans our locker room. I've even sat at their table and had lunch with them in the cafeteria a few times. One of the most inspirational things I've seen in my whole life is how Maria Johnson, the mother of Racquel Johnson who went to school here and was murdered, finds the courage to get up and come to a job where she is reminded every day of her deceased child. For many people, including myself, that would be too much to handle.
TSUTigers: What's next for you?
C. Sparkman: After I receive my Master's, I'll get a job as a videographer somewhere and enjoy that until it no longer makes me happy. Then I'll use the degree I'm working on now and be a physical educator and coach football at a high school somewhere.
TSUTigers: What have you learned at TSU that you will keep with you for the rest of your life?
C. Sparkman: I've learned to not make excuses and make the best out of whatever situation I find myself in. It's like the alumni from the 1960's and 1970's use to say. If you can make it here, you can make it anywhere.