Top 15 Greatest Football Players In Film And Television

Football season is approaching! It’s the most wonderful time of the year. Two things that I love: football and movies. Movies and football together? What more could someone want? I took a deeper look at all of the football movies in my repertoire to see who the best players would be, if they went pro today. Each player on my list was a beast in their own right, and I hope my explanation for each pick does the character justice.

Warning: Spoilers ahead for various football movies / TV shows.

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15 Steve Lattimer

via likepoetryinmotionnyc.com

Position: LB

Played In: The Program (1993)

Steve Lattimer deserves an asterisk on my list, due to his steroid issues. However, even though he also had very questionable off the field behaviour, he was built to play defense. He could lift 315 lbs with ease, headbutt cars, and was surprisingly intellectual at times. For a lunkhead like Lattimer, this is a shock. Lattimer ends up very low on my list due to the fact that it is ambiguous whether he could do anything he did without PEDs. When he returns after three weeks of being clean, he gets barrelled over by an Iowa RB. They end up winning the championship.. But Lattimer cannot rejoice. Lattimer realizes he cheated the drug tests that he passed and he wouldn’t be able to make it at the NFL level without these PEDs. A not-so-happy ending for Steve Lattimer is exactly what this movie called for. One thing that Steve Lattimer was, however, was a good representation of the freak level athletes and how crazy they could be behind the scenes during the '90s heyday of college football.

The Program is probably a movie that a lot of people reading this haven’t seen. I highly recommend it. In my opinion, the movie was ahead of it’s time as it covers a lot of real issues that may happen in collegiate football. This movie also came out a very long time ago (for reference; I was 1 year old). Directed by David S. Ward (of Major League fame), this movie did not garner very rave reviews. It did receiver ¾ stars from Roger Ebert at the time.

14 Deacon Moss

via movpins.com

Position: WR

Played In: The Longest Yard (2005)

Scary prison gang leader played by former NFL star Michael Irvin? Say no more. Deacon Moss was a badass who wouldn’t let Paul Crewe come in and walk all over them. He had a bad attitude, and he was a tough guy. He also knows how to play dirty and unfair, as one can tell by watching the pickup game between him and Crewe.

However, he does end up giving Crewe a pep talk (more like berating him) that ends up swinging the game back in their direction. Moss shows to be a leader of men out there, as well as an excellent WR. He catches multiple TDs and is involved in schoolyard bull before the half, showing malleability and teamwork. He even throws the game winning two-point conversion.

Deacon Moss might not seem like the common pick for greatest fictional players, but he was one of the biggest catalysts to beat the guards down. He also has the size and speed of a typical NFL player (obvious). All he has to do now is get out of prison.

13 Jason Street

via cosmopolitan.com

Position: QB

Played In: Friday Night Lights (TV)

I had to give Jason Street an honorary spot on this list of fictional football players. Even though we only saw him for a little over one half of play, Jason Street’s legacy in Dillon was so strong that he was getting job offers at car dealerships. He even segwayed it into a position as an NFL agent. Jason Street also taught Matt Saracen(who stunk and replaced him at QB) how to make big reads in the backfield, showing his intellect for the game was unmatched. Street was on the path to be a top NFL pick, before his paralyzing injury while trying to make a tackle. "Six" was the future of Dillon Panther football, and used his competitive edge to carve out a niche in the world of paraplegic rugby, as well as the world of NFL agents.

Unfortunately, as with another player ranked higher on the list, there is no “real life” career Street could have had. I feel like his natural charisma and the respect he garnered from everyone around him could have made him into a ‘kill them with kindness’ shrewd agent and businessman. He also had a mean left hook.

12 Billy Bob

via cosmopolitan.com

Position: OL

Played In: Varsity Blues

In the minds and hearts of many, Billy Bob is the best player on the West Canaan Coyotes. Billy Bob was a huge offensive lineman who was both quick and powerful. Billy Bob being able to move as swiftly as he did being a dude that size was a matchup nightmare for anyone who was trying to get to his QB. Granted, he did end up getting Lance Harbor’s knee destroyed (reason he’s not higher on this list), I feel like the good outweighs the bad with William Robert.

On Lance Harbor’s first touchdown, Billy Bob is the one leading the blocking charge that opens up the hole. He was a catalyst in the huge punt block that changed the course of the game. He plugged two different lineman which set up Tweeter to get through and block the punt. An interesting note from the movie is that he caught the championship winning touchdown. How did a lineman catch a TD? Wouldn’t he be ineligible, especially as a guard? For the sake of the movie though, the hands on this big man are incredible.

He just causes destruction and is a leader of not only the O-Line, but of the team. This is a rare trait for an offensive guard, usually interior lineman get zero credit whatsoever. An apt NFL comparison for Billy Bob would be a current NFL stud in Marshal Yanda. Yanda is currently a stud offensive guard on the Baltimore Ravens. He pancakes people and just causes destruction with his blocks. Billy Bob did the same things for the Coyotes that Yanda does for the Ravens.

11 Becky “Icebox” O’Shea

via pinterest.com

Position: RB/LB

Played In: Little Giants

Becky O’Shea is one of those players you’d regret to cut, which her uncle learned. "Icebox" is driven by her passion, which on the football field could lead to some killer defense. Her feelings for Junior led her to spear Spike and force a fumble in the most important (only) game of the movie. She also inspired the creation of the Giants. If that’s not a leader and someone you can rely on, then I don’t know who can be considered a leader. Becky’s motives were questionable at one point due to quitting to impress Junior. However, she ultimately came back into her tomboyish ways and helped the Giants win the game.

Defenses need a passionate leader. You know who else was a passionate leader? Ray Lewis. Did I just compare Icebox to Ray Lewis? You bet I did. Hopefully she doesn’t have the same off the field issues that plagued Ray Lewis.

**Spike Hammersmith would’ve made this list if he didn’t gas out in the second half of the game. What a gigantic kid, unstoppable if he works on his endurance.**

10 Thad Castle

via tv-shows.prettyfamous.com

Position: MLB

Played In: Blue Mountain State (TV)

Bangin’ sloots off the field and bangin’ dudes on the field; that’s what Thad Castle does. Thad was the captain, leader, and alpha male on the BMS Goats. He was a bruising, over-the-middle nightmare for receivers from every team in the Goats way. He also could throw killer parties at the Goat House. Thad used a non-illegal performance enhancer (rabies), and maybe that’s what fueled his insanity on and off the field. Thad actually was good enough to go pro with the first overall pick, and make at least a $50 million signing bonus alongside a multi-million dollar contract. Not only was he good enough to go that high overall once, he would’ve been able to do it twice if not for a drug-related arrest his junior year. He declared his eligibility, came back and dominated once again. While he is not very good with the money he receives, he clearly has the talent to make a name for himself in the NFL..

At least, until tragedy strikes. Thad ends up getting his contract voided and is kicked out of the NFL for “bad behaviour.” Nowadays, we can find Thad Castle on a random tropical island sipping mojitos, served to him by the Island’s natives.

9 Paul “Wrecking” Crewe

via quotesgram.com

Position: QB

Played In: The Longest Yard (1974 and 2005) 

Paul Crewe was a former football star. He was also a degenerate who got indicted for racketeering (shaving points) and drunk driving. However, Crewe had a very good arm and was a very good QB. He was a former MVP and was even able to lead a team of prisoners who never played organized football to beat the guards. Paul was noticeably undersized, and he was a player who (for most of the movie) had questionable character. He singlehandedly kept his team in the game against the guards once the team gave up on him (which was also his fault). Crewe plays himself in and out of games with his skills and his attitude.

A good comparison to Crewe would be a shorter, tough player like Drew Brees. He had a big arm and a big heart, and was able to carry the team when nobody else believed in him. They both also rush for negative yards consistently (-1 for Crewe), if rushing at all. Crewe will have a lot of time to train with the gang, seeing as it is unlikely he will ever get out of prison if the Warden gets his way.

8 Brian “Smash” Williams

via playbuzz.com

Position: HB

Played In: Friday Night Lights (TV)

Brian "Smash" Williams was the star player of the State Champion Dillon Panthers. The nickname Smash, given to him by his father for smashing into a water heater, almost seems a bit ironic in retrospect. He was a bit of an undersized runner, who did his best work bouncing around the outside. He was also a terrific pass catcher, and even after busting up his knee in the State playoffs the following year, he came back stronger and faster than ever.

One downside of Smash’s legacy is the steroid usage. This got him a team suspension for three games, which came dangerously close to ending his, and the team’s, season. He took steroids as a result of being undersized, and told he is too small by a recruiter. However, Smash’s dreams became a reality when he got a scholarship to Texas A&M. He continued putting in work at A&M, becoming the starting HB and en route to becoming a pro.

If Smash ended up going pro, I would see him being a Doug Martin type of rusher. A small guy with explosive bursts of energy who ideally can move laterally and towards the outside of plays. Martin has developed into more of a between-the-tackles back, and I think the very same would happen for Smash.

7 Julius Campbell

via rookerville.com

Position: DE

Played In: Remember the Titans

Strong Side! Julius Campbell was a silent leader compared to Gerry Bertier’s more vocal approach, but this doesn’t mean he was quiet on the field. He let his game do all the talking. After Bertier’s career-ending injury, it was Julius who led the team's defense to the promise land through both emotional strength and intense play. Coach said, “if they gain ONE MORE YARD you’re all coming out!” Julius never came out of the game. I feel like that speaks for itself. He also anchored the run defense, while Bertier in the LB position was more heavily involved with defending the passing attack. Campbell accumulated 34 sacks over the course of the legendary 1971 Titans season.

Julius was a fearsome tight end who inspired the team with his play. If he were to make it to the NFL level, he would be a long time pass rushing threat who would stymie the running attacks of even the best backs. He also can lay a smackdown on QBs, play in a system defense, and dominate on the first and second level.

6 James "Boobie" Miles

via likepoetryinmotionnyc.com

Position: RB

Played In: Friday Night Lights (Film)

Y’all wanna win? Put Boobie in. This flash in the pan stud from the Permien Panthers is the quintessential missed opportunity for athletic success. James "Boobie" Miles was an all-around naturally gifted athlete, and was the inspiration for Smash Williams (listed above). Before his injury, Boobie accounted for five of the six touchdowns that the Panthers scored in the first half. All of his rushing TDs looked to be for at least 40 yards. He even threw a pass, which looked to be a tight spiral that traveled over 30 yards in the air. He was powerful, he was fast, he was graceful, but he was reckless. Unfortunately his recklessness led to his devastating knee injury, ending his season.

If Boobie did not suffer from the injury that is a turning, albeit very sad, part of the movie; I think he would’ve been sponsored by Nike. I think he could have been the number three athlete on this list. Unfortunately, luck was not on his side. As people know, the movie ‘Friday Night Lights’ was based on a true story. The actual Boobie Miles ended up playing low-level college ball, but flamed out. If Boobie (movie version) never got hurt, he easily could have been a player on the level of a Le’Veon Bell. He can catch, he can run, he’s Boobie Miles. And anyone who says otherwise must be from Midland.

5 Rod Tidwell

via hotflick.net

Position: WR

Played In: Jerry Maguire

SHOW ME THE MONEY! Rod Tidwell was Jerry Maguire’s only loyal client, and his loyalty paid off. He was an undersized, over the middle receiver who played tough but also showed Primadonna tendencies. Tidwell had what would be one of the most efficient seasons today back in his day. He had 110 receptions for 1550 yards according to a conversation between Jerry Maguire and Mel Kiper Jr. Rod was not the standard size for a receiver, which did not work to his advantage. However, he was an electric personality and he would put his body on the line for the team.. Even if that means he shrieks like a banshee for five minutes after getting rocked on a catch.

110/1550 is nothing to scoff at either. The Arizona Cardinals mishandled Tidwell’s contract situation badly. The Cardinals were a bad team, and Tidwell was still able to amass 5/57/1 in the pivotal game.

Since he was in the pros, I’d say the most apt modern day comparison to Tidwell is a guy like Brandon Boldin or Wes Welker. Those undersized, quick route guys who can catch, cut and run with the best of them.

4 Willie Beamen

via au.complex.com

Position: QB

Played In: Any Given Sunday

Steamin’ Willie Beamen, got them girls (s)creamin’. Any Given Sunday is possibly my second favorite football movie of all time, and the fact that P. Diddy couldn’t throw a football convincingly enough to take this role still makes me laugh to this day. Willie Beamen was an athletic freak who was never given an opportunity to be the star QB. He was buried in the depth chart behind Cap Rooney and Tyler Cherubini. In the beginning, Beamen lacks the confidence to succeed and loses his first game. However, over time as Beamen got to play more, he started playing with a newfound swagger. He even goes so far as to change the plays in the huddle to boost his own play. He starts singlehandedly taking credit for the team’s winning streak. However, upon doing this, Beamen loses favor with the team and loses their next game. Beamen is then relegated to the bench in favor of Rooney once again.

Due to a concussion on a touchdown run by Rooney, Beamen is thrust back into the starting role. When the tides finally turned in favor of Beamen, he came in the game and delivered in a huge way. Inch by inch, Beamen curries favor with his teammates as well. Beamen went 8-11 passing (72%), 286 yards, five touchdowns, and two interceptions. He also rushed for a pair of TDs. He’s able to win this game, and dedicates his next game to Rooney. Beamen gets his happy ending by going to a new expansion team in New Mexico with Coach D’Amato. He gets his wish to be the new starting QB and franchise player for this expansion team.

3 Gerry Bertier

via sites.google.com

Position: LB

Played In: Remember the Titans

In reference to my Jason Street and Boobie Miles entries, there’s another player who was a stud and whose career got ended due to injury. Gerry Bertier’s story ends in tragedy, but he was unmatched on the field. In the movie, he is represented as the best player on the Titans amazing defense. He is also the captain of the team and the heart of this team. He led the undefeated Titans through the season and was even able to display leadership by cutting his former friend who was intentionally not blocking for the Rev.

As seems to be with the best fictional players (although this is also based on a true story), Gerry Bertier ended up being a paraplegic after a horrific car accident. Bertier’s competitive spirit didn’t end there though. Bertier ended up winning a gold medal in the Paralympics and was an advocate for the paraplegic population. Bertier’s story unfortunately ends in even more tragedy. After being hit by a drunk driver a second time, Bertier passed away. His influence on the team was so strong that everyone ended up going to his funeral, all those years later.

The craziest thing about Bertier in Remember the Titans is that they undersold him as a player. Bertier was one of the best players in the nation, let alone on the Titans team. The movie did not sell “The Monsters of King St” led by Julius Campbell and Gerry Bertier. In that legendary ‘71 season, Bertier accumulated 142 tackles and 42 QB sacks. The movie did not recognize the point differential (338-38). The movie did not recognize that Bertier was First Team Defense for the country. Bertier garnered even more accolades as well — First Team All-Region, All-State, and All-American honours.

2 Vince Howard

via celebuzz.com

Position: QB

Played In: Friday Night Lights (TV)

Probably my favourite character on this list out of anyone, Vince Howard was a young juvenile detention candidate before Coach Taylor helped him turn it around. Once Howard took matters into his own hands and ran a bit of a Wildcat style offense from the HB position, Coach Eric Taylor knew he had a good quarterback on his hands. Vince Howard had the speed, he had the arm, he could read the field, honestly Vince could really do it all. He also had a very troubled personal life, and he was able to use that as a fuel on the field to be a leader of men and to even be anointed a King by the local magazine. Vince sealed his legacy as a badass when, at gunpoint, said the words “My momma’s not supposed to bury me. I’m supposed to bury my momma.” If that doesn’t portray confidence and courage under pressure, then I don’t know what does.

Circa 2016, and Vince Howard was even on Sportscenter and declared that he would go to Michigan State. Not my first choice for Howard, but it shows he would’ve been a stud through college as well, tearing up the B1G.

I’ve always speculated that Vince Howard was based off fellow Texas native Vince Young. In 2008, this would’ve been an excellent comparison. However, after seeing how Vince Young turned out, I think I’ll redirect my comparison and say he is more of a Russell Wilson type QB who can beat you in so many different ways. He can create plays and he could get his guys involved.

1 Bobby Boucher

via quotesgram.com

Position: LB

Played In: The Waterboy

This list always ends with the Waterboy himself, Bobby Boucher. In his very first game of organized football ever, he records an NCAA record 16 sacks. 16 sacks! Yet the team overlooks this due to him causing a game-losing turnover. In his next game, Boucher gets a safety to end the game and seal a win for the Mud Dogs. Bobby misses the first half of the Bourbon Bowl, and somehow encourages these guys enough to come back and win this game! He even is recognized as the heart and soul of the program. All of this occurring after he had never played a down of football in his life!

Even after being knocked out by an illegal hit, he magically comes back into the game after a water break and throws a TD pass on a HB option. The Mud Dogs win 30-27. Not only did they score 30 unanswered, they didn’t give up a single point after the half. All of this happened behind Bobby Boucher. Boucher is then named the MVP of the team, making him unquestionably the best fotball player in movies and television.

Bobby voluntarily forgoes the NFL, against his father’s wishes, to finish his education. He is the long shot that never landed in the NFL, but he definitely made his mark with the Mud Dogs.

Notable Omissions (didn’t make the cut):

Tim Riggins / Don Billingsley (Friday Night Lights (TV))

Shane Falco (The Replacements)

Spike Hammersmith (Little Giants)

Luther “Shark” Lavay (Any Given Sunday)

Joe Kingman (The Game Plan)

Earl Megget (The Longest Yard - 2005)

Disagree with any of my picks? Let me know! I’d love to hear of any athletes I missed out on or that you think I mis-ranked.

Follow me on Twitter @michaelthemurr

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