Die-hard fan Jordin Sparks has gone through the good, bad and ugly years with the Arizona Cardinals

Posted at 11:50 AM, Aug 31, 2016

Were you among the 30,000 loyal fans between 1988-2005 who would routinely brave the desert heat at Sun Devil Stadium only to watch the Arizona Cardinals suffer one losing season after another?

Jordin Sparks and her family were right there with you.

"I went through the years when we were at ASU because we didn't have a nest of our own," said Sparks, the 2007 "American Idol" winner. "We had season tickets. We were up there in the heat. The whole stadium was full of the away team jerseys.

"But we stuck it through, and now look at us."

Sparks is a lifelong Arizona resident. She was born in Phoenix and attended Sandra Day O'Connor High School. Her dad, Phillippi Sparks, played football at ASU and professionally with the New York Giants.

But with all due respect to the Giants, the Cardinals have always been Sparks' team. She's become a frequent national anthem singer at games played at University of Phoenix Stadium.

On a scale of 1 to 10, Sparks says her Cards fandom is a solid 11.

"I've got all the fan stuff. I come sing at the games. I come to the games when I'm not even singing. I will defend them on social media," she said.

The 26-year-old Sparks said she has a "special allegiance" to all of the Valley's pro teams, but she became a die-hard Birdgang member at age 10 when her father retired from the NFL.

"That's when I started really understanding the game, and I was here, so the Cardinals were my team," she said.

Sparks has come to love the Cardinals not only because of their recent winning ways but because of the high-character men who play for the team. Her favorite Cardinal is Larry Fitzgerald, whom she's known since she was 14.

"He's a great leader. He's great on and off the field. He does a lot of stuff that you don't see just to help others and to be in service of other people," Sparks said about the nine-time Pro Bowler. "It's so amazing because you can (wait to) do that long after you stop playing or step off the field."

Sparks said she took the Cardinals' loss to the Panthers in last season's NFC Championship Game as hard as anyone. But she believes this year's team is poised to finally break through and win the first Super Bowl in franchise history.

"After last year -- oh my gosh, it was heartbreaking. I was sitting there watching (the NFC Championship) and going, 'No!'" she said.

"But this year, I think everybody's pretty much healthy, everybody looks really good in practice. I feel like once they get their roster down and they start getting a rhythm and getting together, I think we're going to be pretty unstoppable. I feel in my gut that we're going to there at the Super Bowl this year."

Even when injuries have cropped up, as they did late last season with All-Pro safety Tyrann Mathieu went down with a season-ending ACL tear, Sparks has admired the Cards' ability to persevere.

"The great thing about this organization is, if something happens and someone gets hurt, instead of falling apart, they band together," she said.

"When Honey Badger hurt his leg last season, the team banded together and played the games for him. They didn't freak out and go, 'What are we going to do?' I think that's an amazing example to set for everybody."

Sparks is one of those 30,000 fans who is finally being rewarded for her loyalty to a team that was among the worst in the NFL year after year -- and she's optimistic that the ultimate reward will come soon.

"There's no organization like the Cardinals," she said. "I always believe. Especially within the past couple of years, I've always believed we could go to the Super Bowl and that we could win."