Playing catch in the back yard of his home in Nashville, Tenn., was nothing new for Aaron Sparrow.
But when his future wife Sharnell pulled in a one-handed pass reception, he knew it was true love.
She knows how to run curl routes, deep routes, crossing routes and fly routesbut nothing matched her snag.
"I kind of just put my head down," said Aaron, the Augusta Stallions quarterback, on his wife of two years. "I didn't want her to see that I was smiling about it. It just amazed me.
"She has a lot of ability. It was shocking to me when I found out she was that athletic."
Since taking up football at age 9, Sparrow has seen many receivers on his road to Augusta. The 28-year-old quarterback once was considered one of the nation's top prep quarterbacks coming out of Woodrow Wilson High School in Virginia as he was featured on ESPN with Eric Zeier and Heath Shuler. Sparrow was soon to be a Virginia Cavalier, but he didn't qualify academically.
So he went to Division II Norfolk State and led the nation in total offense his senior year. After college, he went to the NFL combines and competed with the likes of Tony Banks and Danny Kannell. However, he never caught on with an NFL team, so he went North.
Sparrow joined the Calgary Stampeders of the Canadian Football League. Two weeks later, though, he got homesick and returned to Norfolk State where he became an assistant coach.
He soon found out about the Arena League and went to the Nashville Kats in 1997 and played as backup to Andy Kelley. Then he left to play for Grand Rapids in 1998 and played in one game for the Rampage before breaking his collarbone. Last year, Sparrow sat out to lift weights and strengthen his shoulder.
"I wanted to come back to the Arena League last year, but I just wanted to stay focused," he said. "I talked to coach (Mike) Neu, and he told me he was coming down here. He said he wanted to give me an opportunity."
And Neu believes he has the right man.
"We're very fortunate to have Aaron," Neu said. "He's a guy that has all the credentials and all the tools. He just got stuck in a situation as a backup."
Neu also believes Sparrow can lead the team without becoming an emotional ball of fire.
"He's not a big rah-rah guy," Neu said. "He's a leader by example. I know I'm very excited about us having him as the focal point and a guy we can build around."
His first day of camp, Sparrow had to feel his way around and discover who his receivers would be. He now has a talented corps with R.J. Anderson, Chris Siegfried and J.J. McQueen.
"I had to figure out who was fast and who could run the routes the best," he said. "We've got some good talent on the team."
Sparrow knows what it takes to build a winner. He's hoping the community will catch on.
"We do need their support," he said. "I wish the whole town of Augusta could come to the (opening) game, but I know it only holds 6,000 people. I wish we could get everybody in that arena."
He wants the whole community to come see him fulfill his goals.
"Hopefully, I'll get more experience," Sparrow said. "One thing on my mind is the championship. That's my primary goal, to win a championship here."
All this from someone who never imagined he would be here.
"I was telling some guys the other day that I am in Augusta, Ga.," he said. "I had no idea I would be in Augusta. I always thought I'd be in the Canadian League coming out of college. But you never know where you're going to end up in life. I'm very thankful that God has blessed me with the talent and ability to get here."
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