One of the current movies generating a lot of Oscar buzz is “The Blind Side,” with Sandra Bullock deservedly receiving an Academy Award nomination for her portrayal of the mother in this film about a young man who overcomes the worst of circumstances to achieve football and lifetime success.
Really, this is Sandra Bullock’s movie. It does not go without her.
But that puts me mindful of one of my favorite sports films of all times, one that broke new cinematic ground and has a Denver Broncos connection as well.
“Everybody’s All-American” was made back in 1988, with Dennis Quaid starring as a legendary college football player.
There are a number of things I love about this movie, most notably the realism and the fact that nothing is really sugar-coated in the story.
It covers 25 years in the life of the football star, and in the movie he plays for a “real” school, LSU, and the game scenes were shot at LSU’s Tiger Stadium during the halftimes of actual LSU games. They actually altered the goalposts so they would look like the old-time “H” goalposts that were prevalent during the time in question.
Dennis Quaid also did a great job in the baseball bio pic, “The Rookie,” and he played Jerry Lee Lewis in “Great Balls of Fire,” so Quaid really has had the market cornered on playing a historical figure well.
In “Everybody’s All-American” he actually had his collarbone broken by Tim Fox of the New England Patriots during filming, which stopped shooting on the film for a few weeks.
One of the elements that gave great visual credibility to this movie was the fact that for the action scenes after he became a pro player, actually NFL Films game footage was used, with the actors doing their close ups and then game action switching back to real football action.
This gave a very realistic tone to the movies, as did the fact that his career was not perfect. It included injuries, and showing him and other players play through pain and injury.
For a part of the story Quaid’s character, Gavin Grey (“The Grey Ghost” — whom some have suggested was based on Billy Cannon, but that claim has been refuted by the writers) played for the Denver Broncos.
His uniform number is number 41 in Denver, and that was because the best football action footage for the era in question of a Bronco running back similar to Quaid’s character was Rob Lytle.
Lytle finished second in the Heisman Trophy voting while at Michigan and then came to the Broncos as a second round draft choice in 1977.
So, the action sequences showing The Grey Ghost running the ball for the Broncos are as authentic as cam be, because it is actual game footage of Rob Lytle.
This was made back in 1988, so one has to appreciate the extra effort they went to at that time to give the movie as much authenticity as possible.
Every moment of “Everybody’s All-American” is not happy time, but I have always considered it a superior football movie and worth a look by any fan of both our game and the cinema.