KVUE — If you've gone to the University of Texas football stadium, you've seen his name on the scoreboard. For decades, fans have watched as players touched his picture as they run out of the locker room. But you may not know who Freddie Steinmark is. "Freddie Steinmark was someone special. He wasn't your typical football player," said Tom Campbell.
Campbell played alongside Steinmark. Campbell's father, UT's defensive coordinator Mike Campbell, was watching film of a different high school prospect from Colorado when the 5-foot-10-inch defensive back caught his eye.
"He kept seeing this other kid, making all these tackles, making these runs and he finally calls coach and says, 'Who's this other kid?'" said Campbell.
Steinmark had been told he was too small to play college ball. Coach Darrell K Royal disagreed and offered him a scholarship. In 1968, Steinmark started as a sophomore and in 1969, he led the team in the big shoot out, the National Championship game against Arkansas.
"We're ranked No. 1 and Arkansas is No. 2. We're both undefeated. President Nixon comes to the game," said Campbell. In the last quarter, Coach took Steinmark out because he wasn't moving as quickly as normal, still UT won 15 to 14.
What happened a few days later caught everyone off guard. "We're all celebrating and you know, six days later, I guess we get called into a team meeting, I don't know, and they tell us that Freddie's had his leg amputated," said Campbell.
The whole season the 20-year-old suffered pain, thinking he had a routine injury. He promised his parents he would see a doctor after the big game. He was diagnosed with bone cancer. But what he did at UT's next game, the Cotton Bowl against Notre Dame, turned him into a symbol of courage.
"On the day of the game, we're in the locker room getting ready to go out for the game, and Freddie walked into the locker room," Campbell said. He said that raised the team spirit to another level.
"We come down the tunnel of the Cotton Bowl game and Freddie was in front of us. And he walked out, he walked out on the field with just his crutches, one leg. No one knew he was coming. Everyone in the stands was ready for the big game, and out on the field comes a guy with one leg and crutches, and someone recognizes him. And all of a sudden it starts out with one person, and it leads to another person, and then everyone, and the whole stadium is hollering 'Freddie, Freddie,'" Campbell said.
Steinmark fought a very public battle with cancer. He continued attending UT and was a student freshman coach during fall 1970, which would have been his senior season. Campbell says he never complained, but carried on with faith and persistence.
In June of 1971, at 22 years old, Steinmark died. Now, 43 years later, his story will be on the big screen to inspire thousands.
"We want people to walk away from this knowing that Freddie Steinmark was not just a good guy, he was a believer," said Campbell.
Campbell is working on the project as a football coordinator. Actor Aaron Eckhart has signed on to portray Royal and Finn Wittrock will play Steinmark. The movie, My All American, is written by the same man who wrote Rudy and Hoosiers.
Shooting is set to start on May 19 and is expected to be wrapped up by the end of the year.
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