While shooting footage last fall for the film adaptation of “Friday Night Lights,” the quintessential novel about Texas high school football and the young men who play it, director Peter Berg witnessed something he would never forget.
Filming a game between West Lake High School and San Antonio Madison in Austin, Berg, along with a stadium full of fans, watched as David Edwards collapsed on the turf following a hard hit. The Madison player had suffered the most catastrophic of football injuries – a spinal cord Impairment that has left him a quadriplegic.
In a recent press conference, Berg described the chilling scene he witnessed that November night.
“There were about 15,000 people in that stadium at the time and it got deathly quiet,” he said. “There wasn’t a sound. After about two minutes, the only sound was the sound of his mother starting to cry.”
Berg’s reaction to the experience was to find a way to help players like Edwards, one of eight high school players in the state who has suffered severe spinal cord injuries in the past five years.
His desire to make a difference led him to the non-profit organization Gridiron Heroes, which was chartered just over a year ago by Mike Kipp, San Marcos Baptist Academy’s Athletic Director, and SMBA alumnus Eddie Canales.
The two men had formed Gridiron Heroes after Eddie’s son, Chris, suffered a spinal cord injury in an Academy football game in 2001.
After hooking up with Gridiron Heroes, Berg encouraged actor Billy Bob Thornton and country singer Tim McGraw, who are both starring in “Friday Night Lights,” to hold a benefit concert for the organization. The April 10 event, at Auditorium Shores in Austin, will be headlined by McGraw and Thornton, along with McGraw’s band, the Dancehall Doctors. Also joining in the lineup are Jack Ingram, Cory Morrow, and Faith Hill, in a special guest appearance.
Tickets are on sale now at www.frontgatetickets.com (512/389-0135) for $20 or $15 for high school students. VIP ticket packages are also available. The concert will begin at 4 p.m. Funds raised by the concert will help Gridiron Heroes fulfill its primary mission: to offer immediate and long-term resources and support to individuals sustaining catastrophic spinal cord injuries during high school football events.
“There has never been a central place for coaches to call to get help if they have an athlete go down,” Mr. Canales said. “We wanted to establish a central starting point for coaches to call to get immediate support for any high school football player suffering a catastrophic spinal cord injury while playing at a football-related event.”
Kipp said he believes the organization is not only helping the families of injured athletes but their coaches as well. “As a coach, I have never experienced anything close to the emotions I felt as I watched the Canales family’s world change forever,” Kipp recalled. “Chris’ life will never be the same. Members of the Canales family’s lives will never be the same. As a football community, we have to get involved and find a way to help when injuries like this occur.”
In addition to the upcoming concert, another big fund-raising opportunity for Gridiron Heroes will come up May 7-8, thanks to David Bailiff, head football coach at Texas State University. Bailiff, who was scouting in the stands at San Marcos Academy the night Chris Canales was injured, is helping Kipp coordinate a major coaches’ clinic at Canyon High School in New Braunfels. All proceeds from the clinic will go to Gridiron Heroes.
For information on Gridiron Heroes, as well as the upcoming concert and other events, visit www.gridironheroes.org