When the Game Stands Tall, which arrives on Blu-ray and DVD Dec. 9, tells the inspirational true story of the De La Salle High School (Concord, California) football team’s 151 straight victories from 1992-2004, the longest winning streak in the history of football. While the story of the streak is engaging enough, When the Game Stands Tall dives deeper into the De La Salle football program to show how coach Bob Ladouceur and his players became more than a football team.
To honor Ladouceur and the other key figures in the movie who stood tall in the face of adversity and stepped up when their number was called, we’re highlighting seven inspirational figures in football who encourage the same emphasis on hard work, brotherhood and dedication.
Check out the trailer for When the Game Stands Tall above and read on to be inspired.
Bob Ladouceur watches his De La Salle football team warm up before a game. Photo: Lance Iversen, The Chronicle
Bob Ladouceur started coaching the De La Salle football team in 1979, when he was 25 years old. At the time, the Spartans had never posted a winning record. Ladouceur taught his team how to stand tall and stand together through adversity. He preached the importance of family over football. Ladouceur taught his athletes the value of giving a perfect performance every time they touched the field. Ladouceur’s focus at De La Salle was not on a winning record, but on influencing his players to become driven, accountable, hard-working men who bonded together to form a family. Ladouceur dedicated his career to influencing the lives of his high school football players and has stood tall as an incredible inspiration for football coaches and fans due to his ability to teach values and respect.
Maurice Jones-Drew walks off the field after warm-ups before an NFL game. Photo: Facebook, Maurice Jones-Drew
Maurice Jones-Drew, who was coached by Ladouceur in high school, was one of the best track & field and football stars in the country. Jones-Drew continued his two-sport career at UCLA, where he was an All-American but still overlooked by many NFL teams because of his size. Standing only 5-foot-7, Jones-Drew was selected in the second round of the 2006 NFL Draft by the Jacksonville Jaguars. Jones-Drew didn’t let his height inhibit his performance. He has stood tall in the NFL as a three-time Pro Bowl and All-Pro selection. He still wears number 32 to remind himself of the 32 NFL teams that passed him up in the draft.
Mount Union College football coach Larry Kehres watches over his team during a game. Photo: Cleveland.com
Recently retired Mount Union College (Ohio) football coach Larry Kehres holds the record for highest winning percentage in college football history (.929). Kehres is the Ladouceur of college football with a record of 332-24-3 at Mount Union. His teams won 11 NCAA Division III National Championships, and Kehres won nine AFCA D-III Coach of the Year awards for his incredible success. Kehres has been a part of the Mount Union football team since the 1970’s, when he played quarterback for the Purple Raiders while earning a business administration degree. After getting his master’s degree at Bowling Green State University, Kehres returned to Mount Union as an assistant football coach, a position he held for 11 years. Kehres’ coaching talents aren’t limited to football; in 1974, he started and coached the swim program. He was named head football coach in 1986. In 1991, he also took on the responsibilities of Director of Athletics. Kehres has bled purple and white since his college days, and he stood tall for Mount Union even after his incredible success could have allowed him to move on to bigger programs.
Michael Oher volunteering in his community. Photo: Facebook, Michael Oher
Michael Oher, the NFL offensive tackle whose early life served as the basis for the movie The Blind Side, has been an inspiration both on and off the football field. Oher stands tall for his ability to use football to encourage many struggling young athletes, mainly children in foster care. Coming from a broken home, Oher climbed his way to the NFL through hard work and determination. His mission to create a phenomenal football career for himself has served as an inspiration for football players all across the country, and he has dedicated his life to both football and giving back to the community that was so good to him. Oher actively contributes to his adoptive family’s charity, the Making it Happen Foundation.
Drew Brees locked and loaded during his tough off-season training routine.
Drew Brees may be one of the most driven pro football players alive. After an incredible career with Purdue University, in which he broke almost every Big Ten Conference passing record, Brees was drafted by the San Diego Chargers with the first pick in the second round of 2001 NFL Draft. In his second season, Brees became the Chargers’ starting QB, and in 2004, he made it to the Pro Bowl. His 2005 season was cut short due to a shoulder injury. After signing with the New Orleans Saints, he worked hard to recover and came back stronger than ever. He has been among the league’s best ever since. He led the Saints to their first Super Bowl (2010), where they beat the Indianapolis Colts and Brees was crowned the game’s MVP. Following two-hour workouts, Brees hits the field alone to run several grueling 300-Yard Shuttles. “I’m so tired,” he says in between sprints. “But I’ve got to stand tall.”
Ted Ginn Sr.
Troy Smith walks with former coach Ted Ginn Sr. to celebrate his winning the Heisman Trophy. Photo: AP Images
Ted Ginn Sr. has been the head coach of the Glenville High School (Cleveland, Ohio) football team for the past 10 years. Besides creating a powerhouse high school football program and molding incredible players, including Heisman Trophy winner Troy Smith, Ginn Sr. is best known for his college bus tours. Every year, Ginn puts his players on a bus and drives them across the country, giving them opportunities to visit colleges they otherwise would not be able to see. In 2007, Ginn Sr. launched his own high school, Ginn Academy, to positively influence urban kids in Cleveland. His life is dedicated to influencing his players and other young men to stand tall and accomplish great things.
T.J.Ward running the ball during a Browns vs Bills game. Photo: AP Images
De La Salle High School alum T.J. Ward was a dominant member of the team during the Spartans’ undefeated streak. Ward was passed up by most college scouts due to an injury, and he had to stand tall and overcome adversity to prove he deserved recognition. Ladouceur convinced Ward to keep his head up despite being ignored by recruits. He walked on at the University of Oregon and became an outstanding defensive back. After an incredible college career, he was drafted 38th overall by the Cleveland Browns in the 2010 NFL Draft. He started every game at strong safety during his NFL rookie season.