What does it mean to be Uncommon?
The mandate to be Uncommon actually came to me from three different sources. The first was my Dad. When I was growing up he always talked to us about not following the crowd, not doing something just because everyone else was doing it. He encouraged us to chase our own dreams, even if it meant being ridiculed for being different.
When I arrived at the University of Minnesota as a freshman football player, my coach, Cal Stoll, built upon my Dad’s theme. In our first meeting he said, “Success is uncommon, therefore not to be enjoyed by the common man.” He told us he was looking for men who had the attitude and desire to do what everyone else could do, but most people wouldn’t.
The third, and most important source of the Uncommon idea was the Bible. One of my Mom’s favorite scriptures was Matthew 7:13-14 where Jesus talks about entering through the narrow gate and traveling the narrow path rather than the broad highway. He was talking about salvation and the way to heaven but I think it applies to life as well.
We should never be afraid to take the tough road, to follow a higher calling or set a higher standard. In short, we should never be satisfied with being average, but should strive to be Uncommon.
Ken Sparks is the head football coach at Division II Carson-Newman University and is only the 11th man in college football history to record 300 wins. Sparks’ teams have won five NAIA National Titles and played for D-II National Titles three times. He has recorded 21 South Atlantic Conference Championships, 22 playoff appearances and a 334–92–2 record. Sparks holds the all-time record for wins in NCAA Division II and is currently third in total wins among all active NCAA coaches.
Sparks has been honored with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes Lifetime Achievement Award and National Coach of the Year. Sparks was elected president of the American Football Coaches Association in 2007. In 2002 Sparks received the All-American Football Foundation’s Johnny Vaught Lifetime Achievement Award.
The coach is reluctant to shine the spotlight on himself and his accomplishments. Sparks would instead rather be measured by his impact in the lives of the young men and coaches who’ve been a part of his Carson-Newman family. Christian principles have been the driving force behind Sparks’ entire coaching career. For Coach Sparks, football is a laboratory of learning where he and his staff strive to develop the whole person –educationally, socially, athletically and spiritually. Along the way, Sparks has developed one of the winningest football programs in the history of the sport.
James Brown is a three-time emmy award winning network broadcaster. He is the host of “The NFL Today” on CBS, host of “Inside the NFL” on Showtime and Special Correspondent for CBS News, contributing to various programs including “60 Minutes”. Previous broadcasting roles include co-host of “Fox NFL Sunday”, correspondent for “Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel” on HBO and a nationally syndicated radio show on Sporting News Radio.
Mr. Brown graduated from Harvard University. A standout on the basketball court, Mr. Brown received All-Ivy League honors in his last three seasons at Harvard and captained the team in his senior year.
James is an ordained minister and has been blessed to minister at numerous churches and Men’s Conferences around the country. He has also appeared on several Christian network television shows, including “Praise the Lord” (PTL), “Hour of Power” and “700 Club”.
No stranger to charitable works, JB works on behalf of DC College Access Program (DCCAP), Special Olympics DC, Joe Gibbs’ Youth For Tomorrow, and The Salvation Army, to name few.
Marcus Mariota is quarterback of the Tennessee Titans having been drafted #2 in 2015. He played college football at the University of Oregon where he led his team to a runners-up finish in the 2015 National Championship. As a junior, he became the first Oregon and Hawaii-born athlete to ever win the Heisman Trophy.
In addition to the Heisman, Marcus was also awarded the Maxwell Award (college player of the year), Davey O’Brien National QB Award (national quarterback award) and Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award in 2014. He was also selected as Walter Camp Player of the Year, Associated Press Player of the Year, Walter Camp first-team All-America and Associated Press first-team All-American. He was also selected as Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Year and 2015 Rose Bowl Offensive MVP.