Ragsdale's Sparks signs with Lafayette

Mar. 25, 2013 @ 10:20 PM

JAMESTOWN — Throughout his career at Ragsdale, Duncan Sparks has been passionate about playing both football and baseball. At times, it was really hard for him to decide which way to go, until a shoulder injury helped decide it for him.

As it turned out, Sparks is all right with how everything panned out, as he decided to focus on football, and has signed to continue his career at Lafayette (Pa.) College of the NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision.

“I’ve definitely put in a lot of hours training, so it’s really great to kind of get it back,” says Sparks, the son of Lee Kirk and Jennifer of Greensboro. “I know a lot of guys who’ve put in a lot of hours and have come up short. So, it’s definitely a nice reward for all that work.”

Following in the footsteps of his brother, Walt, who currently plays at Richmond, Sparks took up football as a freshman at Ragsdale. The experience of playing with his brother, who was a senior at the time, helped drive him.

“It was great,” says Sparks, who started a couple games on varsity as a sophomore before became a full-time starter as a junior. “My brother and I are really close. So, it definitely helped a lot. I had to figure it out on my own, but he kind of made sure I was doing the right thing.”

His freshman and sophomore years, however, he stood out on both the football field as a middle linebacker and the baseball diamond as a pitcher. For some time, he went back-and-forth between the sports.

But a torn labrum in his shoulder, resulting from what Sparks calls “a fluke hit,” his junior year sidelined him for the spring season and, instead, allowed him to focus solely on football.

“A couple coaches were like, ‘You really have something here with baseball. So, you might want to think about it,” Sparks says. “I even had a football coach tell me, ‘You might want to consider baseball and focus on that.’

“But I was like, ‘No, I’ll be careful and keep playing football.’ So, I ended up getting hurt and that forced my hand. But in the end it worked out fine.”

During his three varsity seasons, the Tigers twice tied for the Piedmont Triad 4A Conference championship and reached the second round of the state playoffs his sophomore and junior years. Sparks was twice named All-PTC.

“Duncan’s been a mainstay in there,” says Ragsdale coach Tommy Norwood, also noting Sparks' and his family’s contributions to the program. “He’s 6-foot-4, plays middle linebacker, covers a lot of ground. He’s just been a guy who you can count on every day. We didn’t have to worry about him.”

In making his decision, Sparks, who also strongly considered William & Mary, focused largely on Lafayette’s academics as well as its strong stature as a football program in the Patriot League.

“It’s definitely a school I wouldn’t have been able to get into without football,” says Sparks, who wants to study mechanical engineering. “The class sizes aren’t too big — they’re perfect. And football, I feel like the team fits me well. It’s just a really good school and I love the coaches. It’s just really a privilege.”