Sparks Unites Cougars in All-Star Game in Kent

IN THE SPAN OF A LITTLE more than two months, former Washington State running back and 1994 Alamo Bowl vet Derek Sparks has pulled together an incredible event— a high school all-star game featuring many of the state of Washington’s most outstanding senior football players — in which proceeds will benefit children battling cancer.

The Cleats vs. Cancer High School Showcase is set for next Saturday — Dec. 29 — at French Field in Kent (1 pm kickoff).Sparks, who is an assistant coach at Pacific Lutheran University, was thrust into the fight against cancer earlier this year when his daughter Ze’Lee was stricken with Leukemia and has been fighting hard since summer.Cougar fans, Husky fans and football fans generally are encouraged to attend and watch what Sparks says will be two wide-open offenses lighting up the scoreboard.

AND IF YOU CAN’T ATTEND, YOU CAN MAKE A DONATION VIA YOUR MOBILE PHONE: Text the word Cleats to 41411 and then follow the prompts.One prompt will ask you which high school represented in the game you’d like your donation to count toward — that’s because the school raising the most will receive $500 for their athletic program and a player from that school will receive a $1,000 scholarship to the college they attend. If you’re not a high school partisan, just list “general” as your affiliation.There is no shortage of Cougar spirit involved in the event. In addition to Sparks, former WSU and Seahawks standout Robbie Tobeck of Griffin MacLean Insurance is helping underwrite the event; KJR and Q13 sportscaster Ian Furness will be calling the action at the stadium; former Cougar football and basketball star Mike Bush (Kentwood) will be a coach for the North team, as will former WSU graduate assistant Sheldon Cross (Kennedy Catholic); and Drew Bledsoe’s Doubleback winery is one of the game’s sponsors. A number of notable Husky greats also are pitching in, including Damon Huard and Mario Bailey.


  • 120 players from more than 50 high schools from around the state will be playing
  • You can find complete rosters from the North and South teams on Twitter at @CleatsV
  • The game will be an opportunity for talented athletes to show off their skills one last time for college recruiters before February’s LOI Day
  • The winning team will receive the Paul Allen Championship Trophy
  • If you’d like to drop Zi’Lee an encouraging note, head to Derek’s twitter @DerekSparks5

ABOUT DEREK SPARKS: He joined the staff of PLU this season after serving as the associate head coach at Kennedy Catholic High in Burien the previous two seasons. Prior to Kennedy Catholic he was the head coach at Seattle’s Garfield High for two seasons, where he guided the Bulldogs to their first winning record in nearly two decades first state playoff appearance since 1979. Sparks began his coaching career as the running backs coach at Compton College in southern California. He  played at Washington State, helping the Cougars win the 1992 Copper Bowl and the 1994 Alamo Bowl. He was the MVP of the 1994 Apple Cup. Sparks is a  motivational speaker and author of the powerful book about high school football and recruiting Lessons of the Game. In 2014, he founded the House of Champions for Homeless High School Student-Athletes.

Derek Sparks and daughter Zi’Lee (Photo: Sparks Family)
Mailing Address23814 114th Ave SE Kent, WA 98031

Cleats vs Cancer is incorporated in Washington State in the Corporations & Charities Division and recognized by the State of Washington Secretary of State Department, as a nonprofit organization.  The U.S. Department of the Treasury Internal Revenue Service (IRS) also recognizes Cleats vs Cancer as a nonprofit organization. The Cleats vs Cancer logo is federally trademarked by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

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