Coach Bill Courtney talks about football and Academy Award Winning Documentary "Undefeated"

You may not know the name Bill Courtney but if you’re lucky you know, or knew, someone like him. Courtney was the volunteer head coach for the Manassas (Tennessee) High School football team for seven years. Even though he has his own business and a large family of his own, Courtney takes time out every day to make sure that the boys at Manassas that want to play football can. “Football doesn’t build character,” the coach believes, “it reveals it.” During what would be his final season at Manassas, the coach and his team were followed around by a camera crew highlighting O.C. Brown, a player who, reminiscent of the story of Michael Oher which was told in “The Blind Side,” was being helped along by a local family to ensure he studied hard so that he could go to college. But the camera captured much more. The resulting film, “Undefeated,” went on to win last year’s Academy Award as the year’s Best Documentary. While preparing for the film’s release this week on DVD, Coach Courtney took time out to talk with Media Mikes about football, his players and why people in Tennessee are so giving.

Mike Smith: I have to ask – The Touhy family took in Michael Oher. The Finley family took in Patrick Willis. (NOTE: Willis, from Bruceton, Tennessee, was taken in by his high school basketball coach and his family. What’s incredible about these stories is that earlier this year Oher and Willis squared off against each other in the Super Bowl). Yourself and your coaches at Manassas. Is there something in the water in Tennessee that gives people such great hearts?
Bill Courtney: (laughs) I’ve done about 100,000 interviews and that’s the first time that question has been asked. I don’t know! In the South we still teach civility and humility…love for your common man. Maybe that translates to this. I haven’t really thought about it. There are people all over this country that do wonderful things for kids in all kinds of communities. The truth is I think we just happened to have our stories told. I think we’re just representatives of a whole community of people from all over the country that do lots of things to help the neediest. We were just the lucky ones to have our stories told.

MS: What was the initial idea pitched to you from the filmmakers when they approached you about filming you and the team?
BC: The local Memphis newspaper, “The Commercial Appeal,” and their sportswriter, Jason Smith, wrote a story about one of our players, O.C. Brown, living with Mike Ray, one of our offensive line coaches, and his family and me driving him back and forth from school in order for him to get tutoring so that he could get qualified to go to college. The producer of the film read the story on line while he was surfing through some recruiting websites. He’s a big University of Tennessee fan and Tennessee was recruiting O.C.. When he saw the story he thought it might make an interesting, small documentary. He called me and we met so he could hear more about that story. When they got here they found out the greater story of Manassas…of the coaches and all the kids…and decided that there was a bigger story to tell. He told me he was going back to L.A. to get funding to make a movie. Of course, when he left we all thought that was the last time we’d see him but four weeks later, after closing up their apartments and selling off their belongings the filmmakers moved to Memphis on a shoe-string budget and started making a movie that nobody thought anybody would ever see. And lo and behold…here we are!

MS: How did the team react with the cameras constantly following them around? Was it an intrusion or did they get used to it?
BC: It would be pretty disingenuous to say that at first the kids and the coaches weren’t aware. But also, you just had two guys with two small cameras. There were no boom mikes…no lighting…no sound. It was two guys with what looked like camcorders. That’s what the entire movie was shot on. So it really wasn’t this big production, which made it less intrusive. I don’t know if I’d believe this if I hadn’t gone through the experience but, honestly, after three or four days…after a week…you kind of get used to it. They worked so hard to know the players and the coaches and the teachers that, when they weren’t around, people were more cognoscente of it. “Hey coach, where’s the film guys?” “I don’t know.” The days they didn’t show were stranger then the days they did because they were there almost every day for a year. You honestly eventually just get used to it.

MS: I see that O.C. transferred this year to Austin Peay. How is he doing, both as a student and as an athlete? (NOTE: At the end of “Undefeated” O.C. is admitted to Southern Mississippi University).
BC: I just saw him at Christmas break and talked to him last week. I still talk to all the guys regularly. O. C. had some struggles with his grades and Southern Miss had a coaching change. The coaches that were there were really fond of O.C. and worked with him really hard to keep him where he needed to be academically. But I think after the coaching change O.C. was uncomfortable. He transferred to Austin Peay and started nine games this season. He hurt his knee and missed the last two games and now he’ll be starting next year. I’ll have three former players starting on the offensive side of the ball at Austin Peay next year. I suspect I’ll be making some travels up to Clarksville to watch those guys play.

MS: When we announced we were going to interview you the question we were asked most to ask you was if you still keep in touch with Money and Chavis? And if so, how are they doing? (NOTE: Chavis Daniels and Montrail “Money” Brown are two of the young men whose stories feature prominently in the film)
BC: Absolutely! You have to remember I was a coach at Manassas for seven years. I’ve known most of these boys since they were in sixth or seventh grade. I’m still very, very fond of them and am probably still their biggest supporters. Chavis is doing well. He goes to Lane College in Jackson, Tennessee. He’s playing football – outside linebacker – and is still In school. He’s doing very well. Money…when O.C. left Southern Miss he left Southern Miss as well and is enrolled in community college here in Memphis. Most importantly he just got back from North Carolina where he was trained as a Young Life educator and is now setting up Young Life chapters in the inner-city schools all over Memphis to do devotionals and mentorships with inner city kids. I actually spoke to Money yesterday and he’s got as many as fifteen kids in different chapters in the Memphis city schools and he goes in the mornings and talks with them and helps mentor them. Money has found a calling to give back in the way he was helped and he’s still in school. The guys are doing really well. I couldn’t be more proud of them.

MS: When the film ends, you’ve left Manassas to coach your son’s team. Your first game was against Manassas. What did it feel like to be on the opposite sideline? BC: It was terrible. There was enormous trepidation leading up to that game personally, obviously. I mean those are like my sons over there, you know? I love them. And to have to go coach against them was really a very difficult thing for me. It was difficult for them as well. I was so glad when it was over with. It was tough. Very tough!

MS: Can I ask who won?
BC: We did.

MS: Thank you so much for your time, coach. I have to tell you, when I watched the film, it made me think back to my high school days. I owe a lot to my coaches for keeping me on the straight and narrow.
BC: I appreciate that. I honestly think that’s why so many people across all kinds of cultures and racial divides identify with this movie because they either remember a coach that did something for them that impacted their life in a positive way or are coaches doing that very thing. I think this film brings out the humanity in that. I appreciate you saying that…thanks for the kind words.

NFL New England Patriots’ Bret Lockett talks about his new single “Get It All”

Bret Lockett is a football safety for the New England Patriots of the National Football League. He also recently released a single called “Get It All”. Media Mikes got a chance to chat with Bret about his new single and his transition from football to music.

Adam Lawton: What made you want to get in to music?
Bret Lockett: I’m an extremely creative person and love art. Music is a huge passion of mine and has been ever since a very young age. I was in the percussion section in band my 6th and 7th grade years and was in choir my 8th grade year. It’s a part of me as well as in my genes from my late cousin Etta James to my Uncle Vernon Green.

AL: Can you tell us about your single “Get It All”?
BL: My newest single “Get It All” is a collaboration with ex MJJ star Prince Syc and the very talented Dejaun Turrentine. We came together to inspire people to literally get it all, not through greed or haphazardly dreaming but through dedication, hard work, and perseverance. We also started a campaign with the same message called the “Get It All Campaign”. You can find more about the campaign by going to www.GetItAllCampaign.com

AL: Do you plan on releasing anymore tracks?
BL: Yes I will be releasing my mix tape called “Inception” later on this year. It has 18 classics on it which I put my blood, sweat, and tears into.

AL: What do thinks is harder writing/performing or NFL training camp?
BL: They are both a challenge because they are so different but one in the same. Writing requires creativity, cleverness, and emotion while performing on the field requires emotion, relentless effort, and reaction. Furthermore, to do both at the highest level take an unwavering commitment and a persistant drive to want to be the best and win.

AL: Other upcoming plans or projects?
BL: My team and I always have a few different plans going on so stay tuned because you never know what’s next!

 

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EA Teams up with Football Stars for Battlefield 3: Operation Gridiron

EA Teams up with Football Stars for Battlefield 3: Operation Gridiron

Drew Brees, Clay Matthews, Larry Fitzgerald, and Jared Allen Team Up to Experience the Ultimate Special Operations Training Inspired by Battlefield 3 Videogame

REDWOOD CITY, Calif.–(BUSINESS WIRE)– From the football field to the battlefield, the Battlefield 3™ experience comes alive this fall! Electronic Arts Inc. (NASDAQ:ERTS) today announced that it has teamed up with some of football’s biggest stars for an exclusive reality show titled GTTV Presents Battlefield 3: Operation Gridiron. Airing on Spike TV this fall, the show takes quarterback Drew Brees, linebacker Clay Matthews, wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, and defensive end Jared Allen into real-life combat scenarios inspired by the award—winning videogame, Battlefield 3. Filmed at a top secret location, these all-star athletes are provided the ultimate in combat training by some of the world’s most elite Special Operations Warriors. Following their advanced training, they must work together as a team to accomplish a live simulated operation, pulled straight from the gritty war scenarios players will face in the game. Starting today, weekly Tuesday webisodes will be posted at 9:00am PDT on the Battlefield Facebook page. The finale will air on Spike TV on October 24 at 12:00am EST/PDT and at 11:00pm CST. Gamers can “LIKE” Battlefield 3 on www.facebook.com/battlefield to view the Battlefield 3: Operation Gridiron webseries.

“Taking to the battlefield in these real life war settings was really exciting and eye-opening,” said All-Pro quarterback Drew Brees. “Every day men and women face challenges similar to what we tackled in this show but with potential dire consequences. Filming this show once again reinforced my respect for the soldiers who fight every day for our freedom.”

Battlefield 3, developed by DICE in Stockholm Sweden, is one of the most anticipated games of 2011, having already earned more than 50 awards including ‘Best Action Game’ and ‘Best Online Multiplayer Game.’ Critics praise the game for its intense gameplay experience, powered by the Frostbite™ 2 state-of-the-art game engine that delivers superior performance in character animation, visual rendering, audio and physical destruction. To accompany the game, Orion Publishing will release a novel called Battlefield 3: The Russian written by the highly decorated ex-SAS operator and best-selling author of Bravo Two Zero, Andy McNab, with co-author Peter Grimsdale. McNab is working with the creative team at DICE to ensure the authenticity and grittiness of today’s warfare is experienced in the single player, co-op and multiplayer campaigns.

Battlefield 3 will be available October 25, 2011 in North America for the PlayStation®3 computer entertainment system, the Xbox 360® videogame entertainment system and the PC. For the latest news on Battlefield please visit www.facebook.com/battlefield or follow us on Twitter a www.twitter.com/battlefield.

About Electronic Arts

Electronic Arts (NASDAQ:ERTS) is a global leader in digital interactive entertainment. The Company’s game franchises are offered as both packaged goods products and online services delivered through Internet-connected consoles, personal computers, mobile phones and tablets. EA has more than 100 million registered players and operates in 75 countries.

In fiscal 2011, EA posted GAAP net revenue of $3.6 billion. Headquartered in Redwood City, California, EA is recognized for critically acclaimed, high-quality blockbuster franchises such as The Sims™, Madden NFL, FIFA Soccer, Need for Speed™, Battlefield, and Mass Effect™. More information about EA is available at http://info.ea.com.

The Sims and Need for Speed are trademarks of Electronic Arts Inc. Battlefield 3 and Frostbite are trademarks of EA Digital Illusions CE AB. Mass Effect is a trademark of EA International (Studio and Publishing) LTD. Xbox and Xbox 360 are trademarks of the Microsoft group of companies and are used under license from Microsoft. “PlayStation” is a registered trademark of Sony Computer Entertainment Inc. John Madden, NFL and FIFA are the property of their respective owners. All other trademarks are the property of their respective owners.