DENVER (CBS4) – A new movie called “My All American” tells the story of the inspirational life of the late, great Freddie Steinmark, the pride of Wheat Ridge High School.
The movie is coming out 44 years after Steinmark’s death and in Austin, Texas, Steinmark is still revered.
“His sacrifice, his work ethic; everything that he displayed when he played here, that’s the reason why we touch it (Steinmark’s photo), so we can play with his type of determination, his type of sacrifice,” said Jordan Hicks, former Texas linebacker.
At Wheat Ridge High School the former farmer is a local legend.
“It’s like a surreal superhero … it’s that hometown kid that you’re just so proud of because everything he did was right on line,” said Nick Desimone, Wheat Ridge High School Athletic Director.
Steinmark was the All-American boy — good looks, great student and amazing athlete. But he reached legendary status on a November night in a tie game against arch rival Lakewood.
“I’ve heard the run described as the run that no one could make,” said Griff Wirth, Wheat Ridge High School Principal.
“Our quarterback … came to sideline asked (coach) what play to run. He said ‘Just give the damn ball to Freddie.’ And that’s what happened,” said Bower Yousse, former high school teammate and author of the Steinmark biography “Faith, Family and Football.”
Steinmark took a handoff at his own 23 and veered right towards the sideline and then cut back.
“I think that anyone who saw that run would never forget it,” Irv Moss with the The Denver Post said. “I know that I’ve covered many games since and I remember that play today.”
“It changed everything for us, it changed the culture of Wheat Ridge — we finally beat Lakewood,” Yousse said. “Before that we were perennial losers, annual losers. And all of a sudden we weren’t anymore.”
Despite his heroics most schools thought Steinamrk was too small to play major college football. Only one school took a chance on the 160 pound safety. At Texas Steinmark was the Longhorns’ starting safety as a sophomore and helped lead them to a national title his junior year despite playing with persistent pain in his leg. Six days after winning the championship Steinmark was diagnosed with bone cancer and had to have the leg amputated.
“The first thing he said when he came to in the recovery room, he wanted to know if there was any rule in the NCAA about one-legged kickers,” Yousse said.
The humor, courage, and resolve Steinmark displayed in the following days and weeks made him a national hero.
“There were two presidents that fell in love with him — Lyndon Johnson, who in the Notre Dame game I dragged through the locker room to meet Freddie,” said Sammy Steinmark, Freddie’s brother. “Nixon met him in the game of the century at the Arkansas game. He called Freddie in the hospital and invited him to the White House.”
Steinmark’s plight inspired president Nixon to wage our country’s War on Cancer. But it didn’t save Steinmark’s life. He passed on June 6, 1971 Now, 44 years later, his legacy is still alive and well. The biography “Faith, Family and Football” has been published and the movie my “My All-American,” due to be released this November, was produced by the same man who did “Hoosiers” and “Rudy.”
“First thing I thought is, ‘It’s about time.’ Because I think it’s one of the great stories of all time,” Wirth said. “So I was so excited because it’s a story that was needed to be told.”
“Those of us here, Freddie is always here. I mean it’s more like our chance to share him,” Desimone said.
Now the nation gets to know what the people in Austin and Wheat Ridge have never forgotten.
“There are a lot of guys who have a great run, have a great game, but true greatness is being the total package, and Freddie achieved that every day of his life,” Sammy Steinmark said.