EDITORIAL: The Ultimate Movie Character Football Team
In honor of Super Bowl XLVII happening this weekend at the Superdome in New Orleans between the San Francisco 49ers and the Baltimore Ravens, I wanted to put a little movie spin on the fun of Super Bowl week. There have been many dramatic and heroic football movies made over the years. I've already made my list of the best of all-time football films right here, but wanted to look at the many individual characters this time.
This week, I had the bright idea of assembling the "Ultimate Movie Character Football Team." My goal is combining the best movie characters from the entire catalog of football movies to form a team at every offensive, defensive, special teams, and coaching position. Here are my football nerd results!
I did make one rule in making this ultimate team. Since plenty of former football players have made their way to the silver screen, I wanted to make a team of just actors and amateurs pretending the be the real thing. Having a team of former pros would be too easy. So, sorry Lawrence Taylor from Any Given Sunday, Michael Irvin from The Longest Yard, and many others. For this ultimate list, I made the single disqualifying rule that the team must be composed without real football players. However, actors playing a real-life person were allowed.
"THE ULTIMATE MOVIE CHARACTER OFFENSE"
STARTER: Shane Falco (Keanu Reeves) from The Replacements
BACKUP: Paul Crewe (Burt Reynolds) from The Longest Yard
THIRD STRING: Wille Beamen (Jamie Foxx) from Any Given Sunday
Let's start with the popular and most important position on the field. No, it's not the offensive lineman. It's the field general, the leader of the pack, and the punky QB. Many veteran stars (Burt Reynolds in The Longest Yard, Keanu Reeves in The Replacements, Dennis Quaid in Any Given Sunday, Adam Sandler in The Longest Yard, Kurt Russell in The Best of Times), Oscar winners (George Clooney, Jamie Foxx), and lesser-knowns (Craig Sheffer in The Program, Scott Bakula in Necessary Roughness, James Van Der Beek in Varsity Blues, Mac Davis in North Dallas Forty, Kip Pardue in Remember the Titans) have played quarterback. The third-string spot is a lock with Foxx's incredible 3rd string pro sensation from Any Given Sunday. He deserves to push the starter and backup and adds a different element to the game. For me, on this ultimate team, it comes down to two redemption stories of a castoff and a convict. Sorry, Adam Sandler, but Burt Reynolds will always be better than you in his Paul Crewe ofThe Longest Yard. It's a coin toss between Crewe and the heroics and leadership of Keanu Reeve's Shane Falco fromThe Replacements. Both have the knock of temporarily giving up on their team for a short part of their movies. Both led a team of misfits to victory. The edge goes to the competition. A pro team trumps a bunch of prison guards who just happen to be good at football. For bonus points, Keanu Reeves also played another Ohio State QB, Johnny Utah, in Point Break.
STARTERS: Charlie Tweeder (Scott Caan) from Varsity Blues, Jimmy Sanderson (Bill Bellamy) from Any Given Sunday, Rod Tidwell (Cuba Gooding, Jr.) from Jerry Maguire
BACKUPS: All the token black guys they put in movies that can't catch but learn to catch at the right moment of the movie (Featherstone in Necessary Roughness, Franklin in The Replacements, and more)
From one diva position to the next worse diva position. Supposedly (at least in Chicago where I am), the quarterback is only as good as his wide receiver(s). I call B.S., but wide receivers do get to make the flashy plays. With Hall of Famer Michael Irvin from The Longest Yard, head and shoulders above all these actors, disqualified from my one rule of no former players, the three listed starters (Tweeder, Sanderson, and Tidwell) easily rise above the pack. They bring the diva quality, especially Cuba's Oscar-winning performance, and the talent. Behind them are the long list of cliche movie wide receivers that have problems with sure handedness and confidence just before they make the one catch they need in the right moment of the movie. They can sit on the pine. Give me the gamers and divas. Little-known fact. The same actor, Duane Davis, who plays the skinny butter-fingered Featherstone in Necessary Roughness plays monster linebacker Alvin Mack in The Program.
RUNNING BACKS AND FULLBACK
STARTING RUNNING BACK: Gayle Sayers (Billy Dee Williams) from Brian's Song
STARTING RUNNING BACK: Ernie Davis (Rob Brown) fromThe Express
BACKUP RUNNING BACK: Darnell Jefferson (Omar Epps) from The Program
STARTING FULLBACK: Turley (Dalip "The Great Khali" Singh Rana) from The Longest Yard
BACKUP FULLBACK: Don Billingsley (Garret Hedlund) from Friday Night Lights
After the two diva offensives positions, we've come to the grinders and workhorses. No better pair of movie running back exists than Syracuse great Ernie Davis, the first African-American to win the Heisman Trophy, played by Rob Brown in The Express and Chicago Bear Gayle Sayers, played by Billy Dee Williams in Brian's Song. They don't get more decorated than those, even if his unfortunate off-the-field leukemia shortened his life and career of Davis and a young knee injury for Hall of Famer Sayers. Oh, and another thing... da Bears! On the fictitious side for their backup, give me the gamebreaker that is Darnell Jefferson (Epps) from The Program. He leapfrogs the selfish LL Cool J character from Any Given Sunday and leaves cleat marks over "Petey" (Donald Faison) from Remember the Titans. In another movie cliche, for some reason, the star RB always gets hurt, paving the way for the QB to win the game. That knocks out "Boobie" Miles (Derek Luke) from Friday Night Lights, the barefoot Nelly from The Longest Yard, and Troy Winbush's Walter Cochran from The Replacements. I need a guy that's not going to fold. In front of Davis and Jefferson, I'm sending the 7'1" and 350lb WWE wrestler The Great Khali from The Longest Yard to open the holes. If for some reason he's too slow or too crazy, you've got Garret Hedlund's Texas toughness backing him up.
CENTER: Billy Bob (Ron Lester) fromVarsity Blues
LEFT TACKLE: Michael Oher (Quinton Aaron) from The Blindside
RIGHT TACKLE: Michael "Madman" Kelly (Andrew Bryniarski) from Any Given Sunday
GUARDS: Andre and Jamal Jackson (Faizon Love and Michael Taliferro) fromThe Replacements
TIGHT END: Phil Elliot (Nick Nolte) from North Dallas Forty
BACKUP LINEMAN AND TIGHT END: Jumbo Fumiko (Ace Yonamine) from The Replacements, Louie Lastik (Ethan Suplee) from Remember the Titans, Brian Murphy (David Denham) fromThe Replacements
Alright, folks, before we switch from offense to defense, let's take a look at the wall of beef and flab from this starting movie offensive line that makes the holes for those running backs. Anchored by a real-life Pro Bowler, Michael Oher, played by Quinton Aaron, in The Blindside, you've got definitely got some "buffet killers" here. While Oher classes this bunch up, who doesn't love the shenanigans of Billy Bob fromVarsity Blues? My favorite pick of this group is Nick Nolte's aging North Dallas Bull tight end Phil Elliot, in a thinly veiled representation of the drug-addled Dallas Cowboys of the 1970's. North Dallas Forty is a solid and underrated football movie. Seek it out.
"THE ULTIMATE MOVIE CHARACTER DEFENSE"
STARTING ENDS: Steve Lattimer (Andrew Bryniarski) from The Program, Julius Campbell (Wood Harris) from Remember the Titans
STARTING TACKLES: Andre Kimm (Sinbad) from Necessary Roughness, Samson (Richard Kiel) from The Longest Yard
BACKUPS: Rudy Ruttieger (Sean Astin) from Rudy and every studly former pro player I can't have because of my rule
In this category and later in linebacker, I lose the most talent to my rule of no former players. I miss out on Lawrence Taylor (Any Given Sunday) and a trio from the newer The Longest Yard (Terry Crewes, Bill Goldberg, Bob Sapp). I'm feeling pretty good knowing I've got Lattimer on my starting defense. Place at the table! Hell yes! Next to him, you've got the polish of Julius Campbell and the interior support of Sinbad's jokes and Richard Kiel's 7'1" ball-swatting arms. I like this unit is in good shape, especially with a big dose of heart coming off the bench when the crowds chants "Rudy!" I would use pro wrestler Kevin Nash from The Longest Yard as a defensive line backup if his character didn't take all of that estrogen.
STARTING LINEBACKERS: Alvin Mack (Duane Davis) from The Program, Bobby Boucher (Adam Sandler) from The Waterboy, and Danny Bateman (Jon Favreau) from The Replacements
BACKUPS: Gerry Bertier (Ryan Hurst) from Remember the Titans, Eric "Samurai" Hansen (Michael Dolan) from Necessary Roughness
I know, once again, that I lose a lot of former pro talent (The Longest Yard's Brian Bosworth, Bill Romanowski, and classic Ray Nitschke), but I might like this unit even more than my defensive line. You've got an absolute trio of ravenous dogs and headhunters in Mack, Boucher, and Bateman. Bring extra stretchers and call for more ambulances! They've also got solid backup with Remember the Titan's Bertier learning on the job and "Samurai" Hansen racking up the illegal moves and penalty yardage. Once again, I really like this unit. They bring the wood! All the fun will be coming from this position on defense.
DEFENSIVE BACKS AND SECONDARY
CORNERBACKS: Earl Wilkinson/Ray Smith (Michael Jace) from The Replacements, Stefen Djordjevic (Tom Cruise) from All the Right Moves
SAFETIES: Brian Chavez (Jay Hernandez) from Friday Night Lights, Nate Ruffin (Anthony Mackie) from We Are Marshall
BACKUP: Any warm body from a football movie
I hope my defensive line and linebackers can get to the quarterback and stop the run, because this ultimate movie secondary is thin on solid and scoutable talent from football films. I'm relying on three high school movie characters (one of which is 5'7" midget Tom Cruise) and temporarily released prisoner. While I love my line and linebackers, I don't like my chances on the backside with a shallow bench to go with it. This section of the team is the weakness and they are going to need an infusion of talent at help. Maybe a few guys are going to have to play both ways like Bryniarski.
STARTING KICKER: Lucy Draper (Kathy Ireland) from Necessary Roughness
STARTING PUNTER: Nigel Gruff (Rhys Ifans) from The Replacements
BACKUP: Derek Wallace (Larry Gilliard, Jr.) from The Waterboy
KICK RETURNER: Darnell Jefferson (Omar Epps) from The Program
SPECIALIST: Vince Papale (Mark Wahlberg) from Invincible
Supermodel Kathy Ireland makes the ultimate movie character team as purely eye candy to offset the ugliness at the other positions. I'll let her kick, but she's on a short leash with Nigel "The Leg" behind her. Rosters don't normally carry a backup kicker, but someone has to keep Bobby Boucher under control so Wallace, Bobby's friend and handler, makes the team (and he's the only other kicker character I can think of that had more than two lines of dialogue from a movie). Jefferson gets double duty on special teams as the backup RB and his one good kickoff return from The Program. The superstar of the bunch is real-life Philadelphia Eagle walk-on Vince Papale. His speed will act as gunner on the return coverage teams. Lock it down!
"THE ULTIMATE MOVIE CHARACTER COACHING STAFF"
HEAD COACH: Tony D'Amato (Al Pacino) from Any Given Sunday
OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR: Herman Boone (Denzel Washington) from Remember the Titans
DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR: Sam Winters (James Caan) from The Program
SPECIAL TEAMS COACH: Hector Elizondo from Necessary Roughness
QUARTERBACKS COACH: Jimmy McGinty (Gene Hackman) from The Replacements
OFFENSIVE LINE COACH: Bud Kilmer (Jon Voight) from Varsity Blues
RUNNING BACKS COACH: Gary Gaines (Billy Bob Thornton) from Friday Night Lights
LINEBACKERS COACH: Coach Klein (Henry Winkler) from The Waterboy
DEFENSIVE LINE COACH: Malcolm Moore (Xzibit) from Gridiron Gang
DEFENSIVE BACKS COACH: Jack Lengyel (Matthew McConaughey) from We Are Marshall
HONORABLE COACHING CONSULTANT (EMERITUS STATUS): Knute Rockne (Pat O'Brien) from Knute Rockne, All American
QUALITY CONTROL COACHES: Caretaker (Chris Rock or James Hampton) from The Longest Yard and Bill and Sheryl Yoast (Will Patton and Hayden Panettiere) from Remember the Titans
When it comes to coaching from football movies, in this writer's opinion, all coaches bow before Al Pacino's Tony D'Amato from Any Given Sunday. His "inches" halftime speech is legendary and is mightier than even the great Denzel Washington from Remember the Titans and the "win one for the Gipper" nostalgia from Knute Rockne, All American. I'll give consultant and emeritus status to the relic that is Rockne and Denzel continues his steak of at least one of his roles always making my editorials with Boone as the offensive coordinator. Rounding out the rest of the staff, I've got James Caan and Henry Winkler to control Lattimer, Mack, and Boucher. Billy Bob Thornton will get he most from the running game and employ the fullback. Bud Kilmer gets to put Varsity Blues's Billy Bob through his paces again. Elizondo and Hackman are the solid savvy veterans to work with trick plays and Shane Falco. McConaughey will motivate Ruffin in the secondary. Xzibit (since I can't use Dwayne Johnson fromGridiron Gang) gives the roster some official pimp. Finally, behind-the-scenes X's and O's and film study will be conducted by Caretaker and the coaching father-daughter team of Patton and Panettiere. This is a solid group!
OTHER NECESSARY PIECES
TV/RADIO COMMENTATOR: Chuck Niederman (Rob Schnieder) from Necessary Roughness
WATERBOY: Bobby Boucher (Adam Sandler) from The Waterboy
CHEERLEADERS: The strippers from The Replacements and Miss Tucker (Tracy Morgan) from The Longest Yard
TEAM OWNERS: Edward O'Neil (Jack Warden) from The Replacements and Christina Pagniacci (Cameron Diaz) from Any Given Sunday
LEAGUE COMMISSIONER: Charleton Heston from Any Given Sunday
No ultimate movie character football team would be complete without the supporting cast beyond the coaching staff. It starts with the voice of the franchise and the hilarity of Rob "Fumblia" Schneider in the booth calling the action. Let Bobby Boucher pull double-duty doing what he really does best and let the pole dancers from The Replacements do their thing on the sidelines for the wagging dog mouths in the stands. Tracy Morgan plays the token photobomb embarrassment (and I'm wrong for putting his picture up) After that, I would divide ownership between Jack Warden from The Replacements and Cameron Diaz from Any Given Sunday. They make the moves and bring in the new talent. Presiding over it all is Ben-Hur and Moses himself, Charlon F'n Heston. Let my people go and let the games begin.
I think both the Ravens and 49ers would have to watch out for this juggernaut of an ultimate movie character football team. Enjoy the big game and have fun on Sunday! Go pop a great football movie in during pre-game and tip a few cold ones back.