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‘My All American’ will move Texas football fans to tears

Finn Wittrock in ‘My All American’
Finn Wittrock in ‘My All American’

Another weekend, another Texas football movie.

Hot on the heels of Carter High, the story of the championship Dallas high school of the ’80s, comes My All American, another ripped-from-real-life Lone Star gridiron saga.

Directed and written by Angelo Pizzo (the man who penned what some consider to be two of the best sports movies of all time, Rudy and Hoosiers) and shot all over Texas (including Fort Worth’s Amon G. Carter Stadium and Dallas’ Cotton Bowl), My All American is an exceedingly well-crafted, if straightforward, guy-cry biopic about the tragic life of Freddie Steinmark, the celebrated University of Texas player who lost his battle against bone cancer at the way-too-young age of 22.

Finn Wittrock (American Horror Story) is Steinmark, a kid who made up for his small size on the field with grit and determination. That’s what made him a star at his high school in Wheat Ridge, Colo. (Texas’ Manor doubles for the town), and what sparked the interest of UT coach Darrell Royal (Aaron Eckhart), who recruited him for the Longhorns.

Steinmark quickly proved himself to be one of Royal’s most valuable players — smart, nimble, strong and blessed with a go-for-it attitude.

Steinmark quickly proved himself to be one of Royal’s most valuable players — smart, nimble, strong and blessed with a go-for-it attitude.

In fact, his life seemed to be perfect. He had stern but loving parents (Michael Reilly Burke, Robin Tunney), the ideal girlfriend (Sarah Bolger, Once Upon a Time), a ride-or-die best buddy in teammate Bobby Mitchell (Rett Terrell), and a potentially bright future in the pros. But then there was that nagging pain in his leg that kept getting progressively worse.

Along the way it showcases some fine performances and a few bone-crushingly well-staged games.

Based on Jim Dent’s book Courage Beyond the Game: The Freddie Steinmark Story, the film doesn’t offer any surprises as it marches to its weepy conclusion. But along the way it showcases some fine performances and a few bone-crushingly well-staged games.

This includes the classic 1969 UT/Arkansas matchup that was dubbed the “Game of the Century,” in which Steinmark played heroically even though he shouldn’t have been able to even walk by that point. He was diagnosed with cancer two days later.

My All American will revive bittersweet memories for those who knew Steinmark and just might make those who didn’t wish they had. Like they used to say in Friday Night Lights, “clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose.”

My All American

 1/2 

  • Director: Angelo Pizzo
  • Cast: Finn Whitrock, Robin Tunney, Aaron Eckhart
  • Rated: PG (thematic elements, mild language, brief partial nudity)
  • Running time: 118 min.
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