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All in the Family

Father, son duo enjoy ‘priceless’ gridiron experience

by Published: Sep 11, 2013

Sparky and A.J. McEwen help the Bulldogs on two tiers of the foot­ball pro­gram, one as a player and one as a coach.

A closer look at the sim­i­lar­i­ties between the father and son, coach and player duo of A.J. McEwen and Charles “Sparky” McEwen, the like­ness is pal­pa­ble. Not only do they share like­ness in appear­ance, but also in pure ath­letic abil­ity and the will to win foot­ball games.

“There are def­i­nitely some sim­i­lar­i­ties, but at the end of the day, [A.J’s] a much bet­ter ath­lete than what I was,” Sparky said. “When I watch him play, he thinks the game a lot of the same way that I would think the game.”

A.J came to Ferris State in 2011 fol­low­ing a de-commitment to a Division I school and played 16 games through­out the 2011 and 2012 sea­son as a receiver.

During the 2012 sea­son, he was coached directly by his father, Ferris alumni Sparky McEwen, who was brought on as a receivers coach by head coach Tony Annese.  

Sparky, prior to return­ing to the Bulldogs, was a stand­out foot­ball player for Ferris. He played seven dif­fer­ent posi­tions for the crim­son and gold, but ulti­mately made his name at quarterback.

Sparky moved on to play pro­fes­sion­ally for the now defunct Grand Rapids Rampage of the Arena Football League where he even­tu­ally became head coach. McEwen would also serve as assis­tant coach and offen­sive coor­di­na­tor of the Oklahoma City Yard Dawgz, also of the AFL.

As Ferris’ receivers coach, Sparky tries to instill his wis­dom and expe­ri­ence into all of his play­ers, includ­ing his son.

“I really just try to lis­ten to what he has to say because he has been in my shoes and expe­ri­enced every­thing that I am going through,” A.J. said. “He knows what I need to do to get bet­ter and the things that I need to do to help me get there.”

As of spring train­ing of the 2013 sea­son, A.J. has moved into a start­ing spot on the oppo­site side of the ball as a cor­ner­back, where he accu­mu­lated eight tack­les and a pass deflec­tion in the Bulldogs first game of the year against North Dakota State. The move to defense now leaves his father, Sparky, coach­ing against him in practice.

“Now he has taken what he has learned (at receiver) and beats our receivers,” Sparky said. “Sometimes it just frus­trates the hell out of me, because my guys don’t know what he’s doing, but I know exactly what he’s doing!”

As the sea­son is still in its infancy, only time will tell how the McEwen’s can con­tribute to the Bulldogs pro­gram, and help the team win games down the line. Even though Sparky has to be a coach, it’s still hard to not be a father, just watch­ing his son play the game.

“Being a friend, a father, and a coach, and being there around him, from a fam­ily stand­point, is price­less,” Sparky said. “You know, because you never get these years back, it’s just priceless.”