Bama aide has Tennessee ties

Sparky Woods has East Tennessee roots and has a connection with the University of Tennessee football program, but he's more than happy with his current job with one of the Vols' most hated rivals.

The Oneida, Tenn. native, who played football at Carson-Newman College and later began his coaching career at Tennessee, is now running backs coach at Alabama. His long career has included stops at South Carolina, where he served as head coach, and Mississippi State.

Woods, whose son Casey is a receiver on this year's Tennessee team, has enjoyed his share of memorable victories while suffering through some tough times in the process of trying to rebuild faltering programs.

Through it all, he has cherished his work and is extremely pleased to have landed in Alabama.

''Coaching has been good to me,'' Woods said. ''I have met a lot of outstanding people. I have a great job now with coach (Mike) Shula. I really like it here. There have been some high times and low times in my career, but I have been around a lot of great kids. I have had a chance to coach a lot of great kids. I'm thankful for that.''

The veteran Woods, now 50 years old, has 28 years of coaching experience. He was head coach at South Carolina from 1989-93. He joined the Crimson Tide after a four-year stint at Mississippi State, where he served as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach.

At Mississippi State, Woods mentored the Bulldogs' all-time passing leader in Wayne Madkin. He guided record-setting offenses in Starkville.

After graduating from Carson-Newman in 1976, Woods took his first job at Tennessee. In 1977, he moved to Kansas and then to North Alabama in 1978. From 1979-82 he coached at Iowa State.

Woods even coach a year in the NFL with the New York Jets in 1994.

While Woods ranks a victory over Clemson while serving as South Carolina coach as perhaps his greatest moment in coaching, he won't soon forget a triumph over Tennessee earned against a Johnny Majors-coached team. The Gamecocks prevailed 24-23 in the thrilling game for Woods.

''That was an exciting game,'' he said. ''We won it at the end. They scored and went for two and we stopped them. It was a big win for us.''

Beating Clemson was equally rewarding.

''That was real important to beat the in-state rival,?'' he said. ''That meant a lot to the program.''

There were other big wins, but South Carolina failed to win enough for the demanding Gamecocks' fans.

''There weren't enough of them (wins),'' Woods said. ''But we had some good ones. I enjoyed my time there.''

Woods' only regret about coaching at Alabama is he doesn't get to watch his son's team play on Saturdays. Casey was prepared to play for Mississippi State until his dad was offered the job at Alabama last season.

''After I got the job he started looking around for other opportunities, and coach (Phil) Fulmer invited him to come up to Knoxville. He agreed. I miss him, but he is doing well,'' Woods said.

''He's having a great time. He was excited about the win over Georgia. He thinks Tennessee has a great chance to win the East and go to the championship game. The coaches have been outstanding to him. He loves the Tennessee program.''


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