Sparaco, a converted quarterback that has been verbally committed to the Buffaloes since February, went out to IMG Academy not knowing if he would be a tight end or defensive player in the future. That question has been answered.
On a team full of highly regarded recruits, Sparaco earned a starting gig on the defensive line and he has been turning heads through the first half of his senior campaign. IMG Academy has gotten out to a 5-0 start and has outscored its opponents 198-77 so far.
“You can call me a defensive athlete,” Sparaco said when asked if he should be referred to as a defensive lineman now. “The coaches at CU and I have talked about it, and we have decided the defensive switch is probably permanent. There is still talk about what position I am going to play on defense, though.”
Sparaco had a feeling early on, in IMG Academy's season opener, that he was destined to be a defensive player moving forward. He stopped fighting the desire to have his hands on the football.
“It actually felt good to be out there running around making plays on defense. I almost felt like a little kid again,” Sparaco said. “I think I missed that being on offense for so long. I didn't realize how much fun defense is.”
Sparaco heard the criticisms about his decision to leave Cherry Creek. And he knew some Colorado fans were worried he was looking for more offers. Looking back, Sparaco admits it was hard for him to deal with at the time.
“It really stung me,” he said. “I was just awaiting the opportunity to make them know, listen, Colorado is the place I want to be and I came here so I can be the best when I get back to Boulder. So I did use that as motivation when I came here. But I did realize sometimes you need to shut the outside world out because they are not always going to know what is best for you as a person.
“It is playing out exactly how I planned. I came down and I am playing against the best competition in the nation every day in practice and we are getting national exposure. And I am getting used to the college-like environment, how to manage my time, so it is a really good investment. I am really happy that I made this decision.”
While out in Colorado on his official visit this past weekend, Sparaco signed scholarship paperwork to make his commitment to the Buffs as official as it can be at this point. It will truly become official when he early enrolls at CU in January.
“After being in Florida for two months and being in the heat and being away from my family and not being able to see the mountains, sitting down for the first kickoff on Saturday was such a great feeling,” Sparaco said when asked to recap his visit. “When that ball kicked off and Folsom Field was filling up and we had the whiteout and the players were wearing my favorite uniform combo, I just got goosebumps. It was something I can't really put into words, but it almost made me tear up.”
Sparaco measured in at 6-foot-5, 250-pounds on his visit. Redshirt freshman defensive lineman Frank Umu served as his player host.
After watching Colorado improve to 4-1 by defeating Oregon State, 47-6, Sparaco was ready to declare, “The Buffs are back.”
Sparaco and his former Cherry Creek teammate Jon Van Diest both seemingly took a leap of faith when they became Colorado's first two pledges this cycle. And since then, they have helped to get 16 other commitments on board. Colorado's 2017 class currently ranks fifth in the Pac-12.
“There is something to be said for the leap of faith but I take more pride in the players at Colorado before me, the current players that were there when it was really bad,” Sparaco said. “Those players, and the coaches, they are the ones that really inspired confidence in me to believe in the rise.
“The rise is real and I saw this past weekend there is just a general stigma around the team that this is something special and it is not going to go away for a long time. Jon and I being the first commits, being hometown guys, it is great to know we helped start this landslide of great players for the future.”
Sparaco and his fellow 2017 Colorado commits have been working on Las Vegas defensive tackle Greg Rogers for a while now. The blue-chip prospect has been unavailable for comment on his visit to Boulder this past weekend so far, but by all accounts, his trip to the Front Range vastly exceeded his expectations.
“Greg is a great player and we wanted to show him that Colorado is back, and that Boulder and the University is something special,” Sparaco said. “We wanted him to see that the environment around Colorado right now is something you can't find anywhere else. I think he saw that.”