Although the drama and passion of football should lend itself perfectly to television and film, some of the fictional players have not always delivered the goods. That’s fine; it is not necessarily the sports skills that we care about as much when it comes to settling down in front of the TV. But there are exceptions.
There have, of course, been some excellent movies and shows using America’s favorite sport as the plot line – and some of those teams have had some pretty good players. Not all of the ones profiled here would feature in your Super Bowl bets online – as fictional athletes seem to regularly play for smaller or underachieving teams. But that’s not to say that we wouldn’t pay good money to see how they would get on in the NFL.
Paul Crewe, The Longest Yard
Adam Sandler played the disgraced quarterback sent to jail for a points-shaving scandal in the 2005 remake. But we prefer Burt Reynolds as Paul Crewe in the 1974 original. Not only is this one of the greatest fictional quarterback performances ever, but the film also features possibly the greatest ever fictional football game, with the inmates of Citrus State Prison going up against a team of guards.
Crewe may have been a prisoner but he was still a top quarterback and shows his skills in the game. But it is not surprising that the character was so good, as Reynolds was quite a player himself in his youth and won a football scholarship to Florida State University. Injuries and a bad car accident ended his NFL dreams but he was still able to show his moves in this 70s sports movie classic.
Willie Beamen, Any Given Sunday
When Jamie Foxx was growing up in Texas, his ambition was to one day play for the Dallas Cowboys. Apparently he was a pretty good quarterback as a child. But his musical and acting talents are what have made him the global superstar he is today. He has played a wide variety of roles in his time, including an Academy Award-winning portrayal of Ray Charles in the 2004 biopic of the great singer.
But it was in Any Given Sunday that he was able to show his sporting prowess. The film is probably best known for the rousing speech given by Al Pacino as the coach of the past-its-best Miami Sharks. There are a number of impressive football skills on show but Foxx, as the third-string quarterback given the chance of glory, who stands out. The fact that he transforms from a brash prima donna to a team-playing leader is just a bonus.
Becky “The Icebox” O’Shea, Little Giants
Only boys can play football? Think again. Little Giants is a classic underdog story about two Pee Wee football teams in a small Ohio town. At the beginning there is actually just one, coached by local hero Danny O’Shea. But he refuses to put Becky on the team solely because she is a girl. She justifiably takes offence at that and convinces her dad – and Danny’s brother – to set up a rival team.
The Giants roster is not what you would call Super Bowl standard. But after receiving some coaching from some passing NFL legends, the team eventually beats its rivals. That’s thanks in a big way, to the defensive blocking skills of Becky – or “The Icebox” as she has come to be known. They even win the right way and teach Danny’s cocky team the true meaning of sports.
Rod Tidwell, Jerry Maguire
Just like Any Given Sunday is remembered for Al Pacino, most people’s recollection of Jerry Maguire will be the “show me the money” back-and-forth between Tom Cruise and Cuba Gooding Jr. This movie actually took a new look at professional sports by concentrating on the shadowy agents behind the stars. But there was some pretty good football played at the same time.
The closest Cuba Gooding Jr. ever came to a sports field was as a breakdancer backing Lionel Richie at the closing ceremony of the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles. But in Jerry Maguire, he plays an underachieving wide receiver that believes that he is worth more and initially doesn’t seem to even like the game. But, in true Hollywood tradition, he has an epiphany and proves that he is worth all that money.
Phillip Finch, Wildcats
In this 1986 Goldie Hawn sports comedy, many regard quarterback Levander “Bird” Williams as the star of the show. He is transformed from a local hood to one of the best football players in Chicago and gives the school a chance of a city championship. But it is another student on the team that gets a spot on our list of best fictional players.
Phillip Finch, played by Tab Thacker, doesn’t even want to play football for the consistently poor Central High Wildcats. But after he inadvertently injures one of the better players, he is drafted in. After some motivating team talks from the coach, he uses his size and talent to block a field goal that helps his team win the championship.