What do you get when you combine a 168-year old church, a 110-year old football team, and an 84-year old award ceremony? You get, “Undefeated”.
February 26th, 2012, “Undefeated” won Best Documentary at the 84th Academy Awards. Undefeated” is the story of the Tigers, a North Memphis inner-city football team at Manassas High School, and of the men and women who poured themselves into that team and school.
Bill Courtney, a member of Second Presbyterian Church (Memphis, TN), began volunteering his time in 2004 to coach the team of 17 players which had timeworn equipment and an unmarked grass field to practice on. The underfunded football team was known for being so awful that other schools would pay to use them for their homecoming games.
Courtney, along with several other men, came in and cared for those students and showed them what it means to be young men of character. Several Sunday School classes and other groups at Second, and other groups from the community, provided meals after practices for these students – many of whom had no real meal to go home to.
“Undefeated” follows Courtney and the Tigers through their 2009 season as they attempt to win their first playoff in the history of the school. Much of the focus in the film is on Courtney, although much screen time is given to offensive lineman O.C. Brown, lineman Montrial ‘Money’ Brown, and player Chavis Daniels. Courtney mentors these young men as they face major difficulties ranging from academic challenges, behavioral problems, and physical injuries. Courtney is a former high school football coach turned lumber salesman who shaped his schedule so he could have the time to work with this team.
“Undefeated” is in limited release now; it will be released exclusively on Netflix later this year. The following clips from the movie are available online: