By LARRY VAUGHT
Mercer County’s Casey Sparrow has been battling cancer for over four years and recently stopped treatments as he chose quality of life as his first priority now.
“I have good days and bad days,” Sparrow said. “We have started Hospice. People hear that and think the end is near. It’s been a little crazy but I feel good. I am able to get up, get out and do what we need to do.”
One of Sparrow’s best friends is Western Hills football coach Don Miller. When Stoops came to watch Western Hills star Wandale Robinson play Sept. 14, the coach’s wife, Jennifer, mentioned to Kentucky football coach Mark Stoops that Sparrow, a 1989 Franklin County graduate, and his wife Lisa were coming to the UK game the next day. Stoops arranged for the Sparrows to not only get on the field at Kroger Field but also to meet him and Schlarman, who has also been diagnosed with cancer and is undergoing chemotherapy treatments, after the Murray game.
“Coach Schlarman is a really good guy,” Lisa Sparrow said. “He was awesome with us.”
Casey Sparrow and Schlarman started exchanging messages and that led to the Sparrows along with their son, Austin, a former Mercer three-sport standout who is now a student assistant basketball coach at Lindsey Wilson, attending practice. Former UK quarterback Freddie Maggard, the UK football director of player development, gave them a tour of the football facilities that left Casey Sparrow impressed. He’s been back to two more practices.
“We got to talk to Stoops some between periods (in practice) and I made sure I spoke to coach Schlarman and spent some time with him. I told him that I did not know exactly what he was going through but I know what you going though. I told him anything I could do to answer questions about anything, just ask. You really can’t prepare for this but I can share what I’ve tried and done,” Sparrow said.
Sparrow coached track, basketball and middle school football at Anderson County and eventually became the head girls basketball coach. He moved on to Covington Holmes where his 2002 team (29-6) made the state semifinals before losing to Jackson County. His star player was Miss Basketball Erica Hallman. His wife was one of his assistant coaches. He was also offensive coordinator for the Holmes football team. Eventually he got into administration and started as assistant principal at Western Hills before becoming a middle school principal in Franklin County.”
“I am very, very appreciative of what coach Stoops did for me,” Casey Sparrow said. “He didn’t have to do the things he did or go out of his way to make us feel so welcome and special, especially knowing he had such a big game coming up.
“I’ve been very blessed in my four years battling my disease. It has been tough at times. But the experiences and people I’ve been around, and the Good Lord, have taken good care of me and Mark Stoops is just a special man.”