Saturday, May 26, 2007

Phillippi Sparks: A Proud Father Speaks

On Thursday, the day after Jordin Sparks, won the Season 6 "American Idol" championship, Newsday spoke former New York Giants player Phillippi Sparks, about his daughter's win the night before:

"Whoo!" Phillippi Sparks said. "Whoo!"

This was at noon Pacific Time yesterday, and he was speaking by phone from Los Angeles. "I haven't woken up yet," he said. "Actually, I didn't go to sleep."

Later, Sparks admitted to a two-hour nap, but all the dreaming he needed unfolded in real life.

Wednesday night, his daughter, Jordin, was crowned "American Idol" of 2007 upon winning a televised singing competition you might have heard about.

It was the culmination of a whirlwind that left the 17-year-old vastly more famous than her father ever was as a borderline star cornerback for the mostly dreary Giants of the mid-1990s.

Sparks, 38, was happy to be a supporting actor in the drama.

"You know what's cool about it?" he said. "The cool thing is that I'm her dad. That's all that matters. I was a little bit famous, but this? I'm just speechless right now, man."

In the early rounds of Idol, Sparks watched Jordin sporadically, spending time at home in Arizona with his 15-year-old son, P.J., whom he called "a very smart, intelligent young man who loves sports and who will be famous, too."

Once the field was whittled to 12, Sparks and his wife, Jodi, were regulars in the studio audience and on TV. Fox does not allow contestants' relatives to do one-on-one interviews for fear of providing an edge in the voting, but yesterday he was free to talk - and to bask in the moment.

"I'm just so blessed and honored to be a part of my daughter's life," he said. "It's overwhelming. She just hugged me and wouldn't let me go and was like, 'Dad, hold me, hold me, hold me.' You can imagine how I felt. I couldn't hold it back, bro. Some tears came out. Unbelievable."

Jordin's parents met while Sparks played at Arizona State. The Giants drafted him in the second round in 1992. He played for them through 1999, then spent a season with the Cowboys before retiring.

The Giants made the playoffs only twice in his time, including the notorious first-round collapse against the Vikings in 1997 during which Sparks had a heated confrontation with a teammate on the field. He said in advising Jordin before the last two rounds that he used football analogies.

"I told her the final three was like the playoffs," he said. "The final two, babe, is something I couldn't get to but you can: the Super Bowl."

(The Giants got there the season after Sparks left.)

Sparks has been coaching defensive backs at Glendale Community College, where he played, as well as his son's youth team.

And? "And that's about it," he said, adding he hopes to play on the celebrity golf tour.

Handicap? "I'm not letting that out," he said. "I'm not great, but I am good enough to beat most of the guys on that tour."

Sparks said even after seven years, the transition to retirement from the NFL is not easy. "I still want to play, every day," he said. "You have to let it go. But everybody lets it go in their own time."

Despite her age and Idol's presumed mission to discover unknown talent, Jordin is a seasoned performer with a long resume, and she has been home schooled since last year. Her father said she is levelheaded and he is not concerned fame and fortune will spoil her.

"No, if you see her, and I'm sure you have, she's incredible, a normal teenager," he said. "She's just a young lady who happens to have a beautiful voice. She's blessed.

"Like she said, 'Why me, Lord?' "


The player below has streaming audio of the full version of Jordin Sparks first release, "This Is My Now." See if you like. It can be purchased at iTunes or at

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