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My All American: History vs. Hollywood

Starring Finn Wittrock, Aaron Eckhart, Sarah Bolger, Robin Tunney | based on the book 'Courage Beyond the Game: The Freddie Steinmark Story' by Jim Dent

Finn Wittrock
Born: October 28, 1984
Lenox, Massachusetts, USA
Freddie Steinmark
Born: January 27, 1949
Birthplace: Denver, Colorado, USA
Death: June 6, 1971, Houston, Texas, USA (cancer)

Position: Safety
Sarah Bolger
Born: February 28, 1991
Linda Wheeler
Born: August 6, 1949
Birthplace: Colorado, USA
Aaron Eckhart
Born: March 12, 1968
Cupertino, California, USA
Darrell Royal
Born: July 6, 1924
Birthplace: Hollis, Oklahoma, USA
Death: November 7, 2012, Austin, Texas, USA (complications from Alzheimer's disease)
Rett Terrell
Bobby Mitchell
Born: June 3, 1949
Birthplace: Seattle, Washington, USA

Position: Offensive Guard
Juston Street
Born: August 27, 1985
Travis, Texas, USA
James Street
Born: August 2, 1948
Birthplace: Longview, Texas, USA
Death: September 30, 2013, Austin, Texas, USA (heart attack)

Position: Quarterback
Brent Anderson
Born: July 29, 1965
Panorama City, California, USA
Mike "Iron Mike" Campbell
Born: May 9, 1922
Birthplace: Memphis, Tennessee, USA
Death: June 16, 1998 (complications from lymphoma)
Richard Kohnke
New Orleans, Louisiana, USA
Tom Campbell
Birthplace: Texas, USA

Position: Defensive Back
I don't know, if I tell you how proud I am of you, it'd be kind of an understatement. Afraid if I talk too damn long I'm gonna choke up, but we've got a guy that we love a lot. Freddie, here's [the game ball] for you. -Coach Darrell Royal Post-Game Speech, January 1, 1970, Cotton Bowl

Questioning the Story:

Was Freddie Steinmark really a standout college football player?

Yes. The My All American true story reveals that Freddie was indeed a standout player. As stated in the movie, he was an All-Southwest Conference safety in 1969. "He started his sophomore year, junior year, which is unheard of at Texas," says former teammate Tom Campbell, "and he would have started as a senior. They amputated his leg." -Jeremy Epstein Tom Campbell Interview

Actor Finn Wittrock (right) is two inches taller than the real Freddie Steinmark (left), who was only 5'9".

Was the real Freddie Steinmark a bit of a runt compared to other players?

Yes, at least to some degree. The real Freddie Steinmark was only 5'9" and 155 pounds, making him physically smaller than most of his teammates. Finn Wittrock, the actor who portrays Steinmark in the My All American movie, is 5'11'', making him two inches taller than his real-life counterpart. Like in the film, Coach Darrell Royal admired Steinmark's unwavering grit and determination, and decided to give him a shot. -My All American 'Character' Featurette

Was Freddie Steinmark really not recruited by a single big-time college football program prior to the University of Texas?

Despite being selected for the Denver Post's Golden Helmet Award as the premier high school football player/student in Colorado, not a single major college football program recruited the gritty 5'9" scatback. That was until University of Texas coach Darrell Royal watched film of Steinmark and decided to take a chance on him. "I didn't get to the University of Oklahoma until I was 25 years old because of the war," Coach Royal told Steinmark on the day Steinmark committed to UT. "I was just about your size. I quarterbacked the Oklahoma Sooners to a national championship one year. On defense, I broke the record for interceptions. I don't care how big you are."

University of Texas football coach Darrell Royal (left) and his onscreen counterpart, actor Aaron Eckhart.

Was the real Freddie Steinmark a committed Christian?

Yes. During our research into the My All American true story, we learned that the real Freddie Steinmark was a very committed Christian who went to church on a daily basis and believed in the power of prayer. Those who knew him say that he never tried to push his faith on anyone. The people who were part of his life have called him the "best person" they've ever known.

Did Bobby Mitchell's brother really die in Vietnam?

Yes, and as in the movie, the real Bobby Mitchell credits his friendship with Freddie Steinmark as the reason he made it through the loss he felt when his brother died. "We were both in high school together," Mitchell said during a Texas Gameday interview. "We were recruited by Darrell Royal. We were roommates for three years and we lived in the athletic dorm. My parents couldn't afford for me to visit them or them come to visit me, so Freddie was more like my family, and that period was filled with a lot of triumphs and a lot of tragedies at that time. When I lost my brother, he was a helicopter pilot in Vietnam, Freddie was my family, and without him I don't think I could have made it. So he had a huge impact on my life."

Is Freddie's girlfriend based on a real person?

Yes. Freddie Steinmark had dated his blonde-haired, blue-eyed girlfriend, Linda Wheeler, since the eighth grade when they both attended Wheat Ridge High School in Colorado. They went to the University of Texas together and could often be seen strolling the campus by each other's side.

The real Freddie Steinmark and Linda Wheeler at Wheat Ridge High School's "Aspen Fantasy" themed homecoming dance (left). Finn Wittrock and Sarah Bolger as Freddie and Linda in the movie.

Did Freddie Steinmark have NFL potential?

"Probably not," says former University of Texas teammate Tom Campbell. "He was a little too small." -Jeremy Epstein Tom Campbell Interview

Did President Nixon show up at the 1969 Texas vs. Arkansas game?

Yes. Both President Richard Nixon and Texas Congressman George Herbert Walker Bush were on hand at Razorback Stadium for the celebrated December 6, 1969 showdown between the University of Texas Longhorns and the University of Arkansas Razorbacks. Freddie Steinmark, who would have his leg amputated six days later, played through the pain and helped his team come back from a 14-0 deficit after three quarters to win 15-14. The much talked about game was dubbed the "Game of the Century."

President Nixon, who was on hand to watch a determined Freddie Steinmark play with severe leg pain in the Arkansas game, invited him to the White House following the amputation of his left leg.

Did Freddie really not tell his coach the truth about his leg pain until after the Arkansas game?

Yes. In our research into the My All American true story, we learned that Freddie confessed his pain to Coach Darrell Royal three days after the "Game of the Century" against Arkansas. Coach Royal sent him for x-rays. A possible tumor was discovered at the tip of his left thighbone. A biopsy and further analysis revealed that an inch of his femur had been devoured by cancer, leaving doctors amazed that it hadn't snapped as he'd played. Immediately after the amputation, Freddie held on to his positive attitude and told his mother that he wondered if there was any rule against one-legged kickers.

Did Freddie really surprise his team and lead them onto the field at the Cotton Bowl?

Yes. Approximately three weeks after having his leg amputated in an attempt to stop the spread of cancer, Freddie showed up at the Cotton Bowl to lead his team onto the field against Notre Dame. "He surprised us," says former Texas teammate Tom Campbell. "Just before the game starts, he walks into the locker room. Not a dry eye in the locker room, and then he leads us down the ramp, in the Cotton Bowl, out into the sunlight, and no one knows that he's comin'." After the win, Coach Darrell Royal presented Freddie Steinmark with the game ball. The actual footage is shown at the end of the movie. -Jeremy Epstein Tom Campbell Interview

Three weeks after the amputation of his left leg, Freddie Steinmark (left) stands on the sidelines at the Cotton Bowl on January 1, 1970. Finn Wittrock (right) as Steinmark in the My All American movie.

Did Freddie ever propose to his girlfriend Linda?

Yes. Though it is not shown in the movie, Freddie temporarily broke up with his girlfriend Linda Wheeler out of fear that he was going to die, but they got back together a few months later in the fall when he couldn't stand being apart anymore. Freddie's condition soon worsened and he began painful chemotherapy treatments for lung cancer. Around the Christmas holidays, Freddie proposed to Linda. They bought rings and set their wedding date for May 23, 1971. Freddie bought an Italian suit and Linda made her own dress. They sent out invitations but the wedding was called off. By May 23, Freddie had begun to slip in and out of a coma. He passed away on June 6, 1971.

Did any of Freddie's former Longhorn teammates act as consultants on the film?

Yes. Several of Freddie's University of Texas Longhorn teammates consulted on the My All American movie, including former Longhorn DB Tom Campbell and offensive guard Bobby Mitchell. It should also be noted that the role of quarterback James Street is played by his real-life son, Juston Street. The real James Street passed away from a heart attack in 2013.

Former UT offensive guard Bobby Mitchell (left) on the set of My All American with his onscreen counterpart, actor Rett Terrell (right).

Did Freddie Steinmark's fight with cancer really inspire President Nixon to start the "War on Cancer" movement?

Yes. As stated earlier, President Richard Nixon had been in attendance at the December 6, 1969 "Game of the Century" against Arkansas. He met Freddie that day, who he watched excel in the game despite battling debilitating leg pain. Freddie had his leg amputated just six days later, and Nixon called him in the hospital and invited him to the White House. Freddie's fight helped prompt the United States Congress to create the National Cancer Act of 1971, which Nixon signed into law, marking the start of the country's "War on Cancer."

Freddie Steinmark Footage & Related Videos

Learn more about the My All American true story by watching an interview with former teammate and friend Bobby Mitchell. Also, view footage of the real Freddie Steinmark accepting the game ball from Coach Darrell Royal after the Cotton Bowl victory.

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