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Sparacino says farewell


The Texans can thank Ken Sparacino and his video department for being one of the most well-prepared football teams in the National Football League.

Ken Sparacino, director of video operations, has devoted 25 years of his life to professional football. On Friday, he said farewell to the Texans and stepped into retirement, taking with him countless stories and fond memories.

"I'll miss pretty much everything," Sparacino said. "Outside of family and faith, this has been the most important thing to me. There isn't just one thing I will miss."

Sparacino's introduction to the league dates back to the Oilers under head coach Ed Biles. At the time, Sparacino had been running a steel plant for Gulf Western and was interested in purchasing Oilers season tickets. He had lunch with a friend who worked for the team, and met Biles. That night, the team offered Sparacino a job to work in video operations.

"Coach Biles liked me a lot, and that was pretty much it," Sparacino said. "I decided to work for them, but I had to work two jobs to make ends meet. After three years, I became the video director for the Oilers."

Sparacino spent 18 years with the Oilers, the most memorable days occuring during the Jerry Glanville era. Glanville, the Oilers head coach in the late 1980s, was known for his aggressive coaching style and sharp tongue. During his tenure, the Astrodome became dubbed the "House of Pain" because of the team's long home winning streak and the fans' raucous cheering.

"That team had an attitude – they always thought they were going to win," Sparacino said. "Glanville had his antics, but he always took real good care of you. It was just his nature. He wanted you to feel like you were a very important part of what was going on."

{QUOTE}Sparacino also formed close friendships with players like Bruce Matthews, Curtis Duncan and Haywood Jeffires.

"They would hang out with us and we would hang out with them," Sparacino said. "We would eat lunch together and then go drink beer in the evening. It was a good time to be in pro football."

Times certainly have changed, the video director said. Now, it seems that professional football is more of a year-round business.

"The guys usually had the season, and then you didn't see them for a while," Sparacino said. "Coaches had more time away from the game. Now, when one season ends, you immediately start right back again.

"There's not an offseason anymore. That's one of the things you have to be careful about - it takes so much time that it can wear you out. But for me, it's the only place to be."

Since 2001, Sparacino has been with the Texans, spending long nights in the office so coaches could have film cut-ups Monday mornings, helping scouts prepare for the draft and enduring the oppressive August heat on the video scissor lift during outdoor training camp practices.

"It's a lot of repetition," Sparacino said. "You become accustomed to it. You watch what is going on. You see if the team is becoming better. I enjoy watching specific areas on each day to see if the receivers are doing better or the backs look good or the line is better or the quarterbacks are throwing really sharp.

"Right now, we are working on tape of college players for the draft. Coaches look at them, put together information on them and then we put the plays on a separate tape and put them into the computer, so that they can go in a look at them."

It's a job that head coach Gary Kubiak said has been invaluable for the team.

"He (Sparacino) has been a big part of this organization for a long, long time," Kubiak said. "I've enjoyed working with him, but I also understand why he is ready to take a break. I wish him well, and he will be missed. We just hope he's not a stranger."

Sparacino also has racked up some fond memories in Reliant Stadium, especially Houston's win over the Cowboys in the Texans' first home game.

"We weren't given much of a chance," Sparacino said. "I don't remember what the spread was. They came in with that Cowboys swagger, and we put their hats in their hands. I enjoyed that a lot. There was a great crowd. They were really loud, and it brought back a lot of memories of being in the Astrodome."

Although life after football hasn't sunk in yet, Sparacino has a few ideas about what he will do with his days away from the stadium.

"I really don't want to make any plans for a while," Sparacino said. "I just want to get up, go out, watch the sun come up, sip my coffee and then watch the sun go down in the evening."

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