Greater Flint Area Sports Hall Of Fame Inductees
Use the drop-downs above to first select a category, then an inductee to display.
Or Search by Individual Last Name or by Team Name.
He Made the Grade Off the Field, Too.
Intelligence and intensity.
John Sperla combined those traits to become one of the greatest high school athletes in Flint history. He was an All-State football and basketball player at St. Matthew High in the late 1960's and later a three-year basketball letterman and captain at Western Michigan University.
But it was only after Sperla realized there had to be a life after sports that he concentrated on academics, so much so that he became a college academic All-American. He would later graduate from the University of Notre Dame law school, third in his class.
"I knew I couldn't play sports forever," said Sperla, a member of the same law firm in Grand Rapids that hired him out of college in 1975. "From an early age, my parents reinforced that feeling. I was lucky to have coaches and teachers who thought that way, too. They made me stick to my studies."
But what an athletic career Sperla enjoyed at St. Matthew High. He was a junior at St. Matt's in 1967 when the Panthers won almost every athletic event they played, going 9-0 in football, 25-0 with a state Class D championship in basketball, plus a state title in track. St. Matthew was also rated the top Class D baseball team in the state that year.
Sperla maintained his competitive edge playing alongside teammates like Paul Staroba, Jerry Killian, Joey Keaton, Mike Abbott and Bob Boudreau. He also said it was a blessing to be able to compete against other Flint area athletes in pick-up games. "On Sundays, the priest at St. Matthew would open up the gym for us all day long," Sperla said. "We'd get kids from Northern, Central, Southwestern and Northwestern to play basketball.
"They were tough game no fouls called. That helped prepare me for the regular season."
On Pratt, Sperla said, "I was blessed to have a man like him in my life. And I see he's still doing it today like he did for so many kids back in my day." What Sperla did in his senior year, 1967-68, is truly miraculous, considering he was the lone starter returning from a state basketball championship team. In fact, St. Matthew carried only a 10-8 regular season record into the district tournament. But with Sperla holding the hot hand - he averaged 31.6 points over seven games - the Panthers had another Class D title in the bag.
Sperla poured in 44 points in a semifinals victory over DeTour and became the first Flint cager in history to score more than 800 points in a single season. Over his career, Sperla reached double figures 63 times in his final 65 games, 29 times with 30 or more points. His high school coach once said, "John Sperla is not especially a gifted athlete. He doesn't have outstanding athletic ability. He does it all on competitiveness."
That competitive spirit carried over to the football field as well. As a junior, Sperla was an All-State halfback, scoring 17 touchdowns. He was a two-way performer, an outstanding defensive end. He was also a sprinter on the track team.
Today, at age 52, Sperla still stays active in sports, playing in a recreation basketball league in Grand Rapids three times a week. He also coaches an eighth grade football team, of which son, Jacob, is a member. Sperla has coached basketball for the past 14 years.
Sperla and his wife, Pat, are also the parents of three daughters, Jamie, Jody and Denielle, all active in sports, all also outstanding academically. Looking back on his outstanding athletic career, Sperla said he was lucky to grow up in Flint during a grand era in athletics.
"It was fun, exciting, beneficial," he said.
"It helped prepare me for the rest of my life."
HOME | ABOUT US | DID YOU KNOW | EVENTS | INDUCTEES | NOMINATION FORMS | SPONSORS | CONTACT US
Greater Flint Area Sports Hall of Fame - (810) 591-5510
Powered by AlliedMedia