‘Sparks’ ignites LV football season

When not on the football field, senior liberal arts major and La Verne running back Travis Sparks-Jackson buses tables at Walter’s Restaurant in Claremont. This season, Sparks-Jackson ran for 1,521 yards and 19 touchdowns, and he became ULV’s all-time leading rusher with 3,046 career rushing yards. Sparks-Jackson played in the 2015 postseason all-star National Bowl in Miami, Florida, where he was named Most Valuable Player./ photo by Emily Lau
When not on the football field, senior liberal arts major and La Verne running back Travis Sparks-Jackson buses tables at Walter’s Restaurant in Claremont. This season, Sparks-Jackson ran for 1,521 yards and 19 touchdowns, and he became ULV’s all-time leading rusher with 3,046 career rushing yards. Sparks-Jackson played in the 2015 postseason all-star National Bowl in Miami, Florida, where he was named Most Valuable Player. / photo by Emily Lau

Jolene Nacapuy
Editor in Chief

With his green and orange helmet and jersey printed with the number 24, La Verne senior running back Travis Sparks-Jackson hit the field at Ortmayer Stadium for his last Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference game.

With a 41-yard run in the last ten seconds of the third quarter against the Cal Lutheran Kingsmen Nov. 14, he punched his way into the record books, becoming La Verne’s all-time leading rusher, surpassing Matthew Biggers, who set the record in 2013 with 2,844 yards.

“I’m happy and glad I was able to do that, but it just came as a part of the experience. That wasn’t really my goal coming here, but it was cool,” he said.

Sparks-Jackson finished the season with 1,521 yards and 3,046 career rushing yards.

On Sunday, Sparks-Jackson played in the 2015 postseason all-star National Bowl game, which consisted of top players from non football bowl subdivision schools at Ocean Bank Field at Florida International University Stadium in Miami.

Sparks-Jackson was also named Most Valuable Player of the game.

“It was a good honor to have,” he said. “I just went out there and played and good things just happened for me.”

He ran for 134 yards and scored a 60-yard touchdown.

Bob Dyer, the announcer of all the La Verne football games at Ortmayer Stadium, president of the La Verne Athletic Association, Bob Dyer said Sparks-Jackson is the type of guy you would want on your team and to represent La Verne.

“I was so excited to find out he was named MVP,” Dyer said. “I ran down and told my wife, ‘Travis made MVP.’”

Sparks-Jackson was also selected to the 2015 D3football.com First Team All-West Region Team, voted by the sports information directors in the region and D3football.com staff. The 2015 D3football.com All-American Team will be announced Dec. 18.

Sparks-Jackson was named to the D3football.com Team of the Week in the first week of October, when he scored a career-high four touchdowns in a win against Occidental.

In the first round of the NCAA Division III Championship game against the St. Thomas Tommies, he ran for 155 yards, the most yards any player has recorded against the Tommies this season.

Growing up, however, Sparks-Jackson was more of a baseball guy.

He played baseball since he was 4-years-old ­­­until the end of high school at Ocean View in Huntington Beach.

“I miss it every now and then,” he said. “I’ll always have that love for baseball. Baseball is still a big part of my life. It’s not like it went anywhere, it’s just I don’t play it as much anymore.”

Sparks-Jackson moved up to the Ocean View varsity football team his sophomore year as a safety and running back and started to love the game more.

He had to weigh his options between going to a big-name school or being able to play football, and the choice was obvious for him.

“I got recruited to La Verne to play as a safety by coach (Chris) Krich and on day one, he told us to go to positions where we think we could play on this team and I felt like running back was where I felt like home,” Sparks-Jackson said.

Head football coach Chris Krich said being his coach has been an amazing honor.

“It has been a blessing to be his coach,” Krich said. “He is a leader on and off the field and it’s just that type of guy that our players rallied around, our coaches rallied around and he believed in what we were trying to accomplish when he first stepped foot on this campus.”

Teammate and workout partner William Livingston, senior quarterback said Sparks-Jackson is one of the hardest working guys he has ever seen.

“It’s ridiculous how hard that guy has worked and he deserves everything he gets,” Livingston said.

Many may know Sparks-Jackson as the guy on the field dashing past defensive linemen, but he said he is just a regular guy trying to get his degree.

Sparks-Jackson will be graduating in the spring with a bachelor’s degree in liberal arts.

“With a guy like Travis, he’s just that total full student-athlete,” Krich said. “He has great grades, the all-time leading rusher record and he’s also able to work two jobs, so he’s just an amazing young man who I know who’s going to be successful in the future.”

After graduation, he hopes to keep playing football.

“I would like to play either CFL or NFL, even scout team would be cool. It’s not just for the money, I love the game and don’t wanna stop playing if I don’t have to,” Sparks-Jackson said. “So if it doesn’t work, then I just wanna get into my career, air traffic control. But I hope football keeps going for me.”

Originally a math major, who wanted to be a math teacher, he switched to liberal arts in order to pursue his new career. He found that he did not need a math degree to work in air traffic control, after a Google search, and he had family members who have done it before.

“It sounded really interesting, it’s good money, good benefits and a government job, so I felt like I could do it,” he said.

When he is not at school, Sparks-Jackson is either working at the cardio room in the Sports Science and Athletics Pavilion or working at Walter’s Restaurant in Claremont, where he has been for a year and a half.

“I like the people there, it’s a good environment and it pertains to me helping people,” he said.

Being the oldest of three siblings, Sparks-Jackson does whatever he can to help out his mom.

“I like to pay my own stuff, and it’s good to take that stress off of her shoulders,” he said.

His mother has been one of the biggest influences in his life and considers himself to be a momma’s boy.

“I love that lady to death,” Sparks-Jackson said. “And not taking away from my dad, but I just love being around my momma. She does everything for me.”

Sparks-Jackson may be tough out on the field, but has a soft side off the field, especially for his parents.

“My mother is the most loving person and I’ve never met anyone so caring,” he said. “She’s always so worried about everyone around her. I love my dad to death too and I respect him and love him very much.”

In his free time, he enjoys watching sports, including his favorite teams: the Los Angeles Dodgers, Oakland Raiders, University of Southern California Trojans and the Los Angeles Lakers.

Despite his teams not doing well this season, he still sticks to them and is not a “bandwagon.”

“I took after my dad,” he said. “I’d watch them with him, so I’m not a bandwagon fan like most people, I stick to my team, no matter the struggle.”

He likes the quote, “treat others how you wanna be treated.”

“I like that one a lot and just love what you have while you have it because you never know when it’s gonna be gone and people take it for granted,” he said. “Some people don’t realize that in one second, everything could be taken away from you.”

Livingston said he is the guy he or anybody can talk to.

“If you ever need something, he’s there to help you out. If you’re having issues, he’s there to be your counselor. He’s kind hearted, always looking out for everybody,” Livingston said.

Whether it is catching up on his sleep or studying in the library, Sparks-Jackson has made his mark in the ULV football history books.

Jolene Nacapuy can be reached at jolene.nacapuy@laverne.edu.

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