'Woodlawn' Will Showcase How Faith Helped a Football Team Heal in Racially Tense 1970s Alabama

Posted: Aug 19, 2015 12:00 PM

Tony Nathan was not your average football star in Birmingham, Alabama. Yes, the running back helped cement Woodlawn high school's presence on the top of the scoreboard in the early 1970s, but his efforts were more important in helping to heal the racial tension which often paralyzed his city. Through his and his team's journey, Woodlawn proved that a little faith and football can help a community heal.

Because of the color of his skin, Nathan's athletic talent was overlooked at Woodlawn high school. Officials threatened to close the school he attended due to racial violence. Yet, when a chaplain spoke to the school's struggling football team and encouraged them to place their lives in God’s hands, their eager response worked to keep Woodlawn’s doors open.

The Woodlawn football team began praying before games and they started winning – the connection was unmistakable. Their winning streak did something almost impossible at the time: it brought both black and white fans to the games and they cheered for their team as one, overcoming blind hatred.

"Everybody started accepting people for who they were – not for the color of their skin," said Nathan.

“Woodlawn,” a new film from Pure Flix Entertainment and executive producer brothers Jon and Andrew Erwin, will bring Nathan and his team’s inspiring story to life. The directors have a personal stake in the story, because they grew up in Birmingham and witnessed it all take place.

This new exclusive clip provides behind-the-scenes footage of the film, including commentary from Nathan himself.

“All I was doing was what the good Lord gave me the ability to do,” he said. “And I wanted to do what a lot of people do when you’re done with your career, just go off into the sunset. But, I guess the Lord had another plan for me.”

Thanks to Nathan’s faith, Woodlawn transcended racism and his community realized that Christian love was stronger than bitter prejudice.

"It's a bigger message than me," he added.

"Woodlawn’s" star-heavy cast includes Jon Voight as famed football coach Paul “Bear” Bryant, Sean Astin as Hank, the Christian who changes Nathan’s life, Nic Bishop as Woodlawn football coach Tandy Geralds, Sherri Shepherd as Nathan’s mother, and newcomer Caleb Castille as Nathan.

I've seen an early screening of the film and I can tell you, it's more than just a football movie. As one of the directors, Andy Erwin, said, "It is a powerful true story that doesn't need to be Hollywood-ized."

Learn more about "Woodlawn" here and be sure to check it out in theaters October 16.

Last note: This inspiring poster beautifully captures the movie's heart.