Written and Directed by Angelo Pizzo
There are plenty of luminaries throughout the history of football and perhaps especially so college football. There are countless heroes that many college programs can point to, and some that even transcend the institution where they made their mark. But for all the legends of the game, there are so many more unsung heroes who were either overlooked, or whose stories came to tragic end. Freddie Steinmark is not a name, as a huge fan of the game, I was not familiar with before seeing this film. Despite going to the University of Texas, one of the storied programs in the history of the game, Steinmark is likely only known to Texas Longhorn fans, and a few very ardent fans of the game. His time in the game came and went, leaving a lasting legacy in Austin.
Freddie (Finn Wittrock) was an undersized superstar at his Denver, Colorado high school. So when a football sized Californian (Rett Terrell) joins the team, the two transform the losing program into a winner, which they parlay into scholarship offers from the University of Texas under famed Coach Royal (Aaron Eckhart). Freddie’s high school sweetheart Linda (Sarah Bolger) also gets accepted to Texas, where after a tough freshman year on the football field, the Longhorns turned to this young, small, energetic, tough football player to transform its defense, while changing their offense with fellow newcomer James Street (Juston Street, playing his father) under center to lead them once again to a winning program.
The career and life of Freddie Steinmark is pretty incredible. Sure, there may be a few other inspiring stories like his to have come along, so he is likely not one of one, but to see an undersized football player, who is smart, charming, a leader able to overcome any physical differences to become a college football star and central to a National Championship team. He means a lot to the University of Texas, and filmmaker Angelo Pizzo makes that evident with his depiction of Steinmark. But beyond that connection, the film is just another of many inspirational sports biographies.
It follows the formula, it includes all the tropes. Like so many others of this football marathon, it fails to ever set itself apart, either with character development, acting performances, filmmaking flourishes, or insightful narrative elements. But as a “based on a true story” entry, My All American is fine fare, presenting a notable and perhaps even noble figure in the history of college football. Fine is about as good a compliment as I can offer this film though, as it lives somewhere above some kind of dreck I would vehemently ward people off of, but below the baseline average I would use to recommend. This gray area of quality also makes it extremely hard to write a thoughtful review. It’s not good, it’s not bad. It just is. I fail for more words than that.