Former Washington State standout Derek Sparks dies after battle with cancer

From personnel reports

Derek Sparks, a former Washington state file and soccer coach who inspired many with his motivational personality, died Tuesday after battling stage 4 pancreatic cancer for several months.

The Twitter page for Cleats vs. Cancer announced the news.

In 2018, Sparks founded Cleats vs. Cancer on, a Seattle high school soccer show dedicated to raising funds for children battling cancer after his daughter, Ze’Lee, was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia. She is now cancer free.

‘Demand the win’: Facing pancreatic cancer, former Washington state RB Derek Sparks tries to stiffen the biggest challenge of his life

Derek Sparks shared two iPhone photos. One shows an IV needle piercing his left forearm with white bandage holding the sharp metal pin in place. The other shows Sparks’ right arm. A white hospital bracelet and brown tape are wrapped around his wrist, and the inside of his forearm is covered in deep purple bruises that represent old punctures. | Read more ”

Sparks was a standout running back for the Cougars in the early 1990s, helping WSU win the 1992 Copper Bowl and the 1994 Alamo Bowl. He was the MVP of the 1994 Apple Cup and was a 1995 Doak Walker Award nominee for a brief stint in the NFL.

He began his coaching career in 1997 at Compton (California) College before dropping out at Garfield High and Kennedy Catholic High in Washington State. He has taught running backs for Pacific Lutheran University for the past three years.

Sparks was also a motivational speaker, founding the House of Champions for Homeless High School Student-Athletes in 2014. He also wrote Lessons of the Game: The Untold Story of High School Football.

Sparks was a blue-chip recruit from Mater Dei after moving to California from his hometown of Wharton, Texas.

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