Today SEC Network unveiled five new football-related SEC Storied documentaries slated to run in September. Produced by ESPN Films – creator of the Peabody and Emmy Award-winning 30 for 30 series – the documentaries will debut on five consecutive Tuesday evenings throughout September at 9 p.m. ET/8 p.m. CT.
The first film, “Wuerffel’s Way,” is a documentary focused on the journey of former Florida quarterback Danny Wuerffel – from winning the Heisman Trophy and a national championship to spearheading the Desire Street Academy in New Orleans and leading recovery efforts for that community outreach program after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina ten years ago. A special premiere of the film is scheduled to air on ESPN on the eve of the tenth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.
The roster of new SEC Storied films also includes the extraordinary turnaround of Auburn football in 2013, the sudden and tragic death of Bo Rein before he ever coached his first game at LSU, the acceptance that All-American defensive end Michael Sam found at the University of Missouri, and the odyssey of the late Alabama star linebacker Derrick Thomas through the eyes of a son he never knew.
ESPN Films launched the SEC Storied documentary series in September 2011, presenting fans the opportunity to explore the rich athletic history of the Southeastern Conference. From extraordinary athletes and coaches to defining games and moments, the series has featured films that focus on the SEC’s recent and more distant past, including one of the most-viewed documentaries in ESPN history, “The Book of Manning.” Earlier this year, SEC Storied received its first two Sports Emmy nominations for both “Outstanding Sports Documentary” and “Outstanding Music Composition/Direction/Lyrics” with the film “It’s Time: The Story of Brad Gaines and Chucky Mullins.”
The September Lineup (all debut at 9 p.m. ET/8 p.m. CT)
Tuesday, September 1 – “Wuerffel’s Way presented by Chick-fil-A” (special premiere on ESPN, Friday, Aug. 28 at 7:30 p.m. ET)
Tuesday, September 8 – “Miracles on the Plains presented by Dr Pepper”
Tuesday, September 15 – “The Bo You Don’t Know”
Tuesday, September 22 – “Tigers United presented by Regions Bank”
Tuesday, September 29 – “In Search of Derrick Thomas presented by Belk”
“Wuerffel’s Way” – Directed by Jim Jorden
Danny Wuerffel was on top of the world at the end of the 1996 college football season. The University of Florida quarterback had just won the Heisman Trophy and led the Gators to a National Championship. But drafted by the New Orleans Saints in the spring of 1997, he struggled to attain the same kind of success in the NFL. It was in that first year as a pro that he began volunteering in New Orleans’ Desire neighborhood, one of the poorest locales in the country. After Hurricane Katrina devastated his Desire Street Academy in late August 2005, Wuerffel took the lead in tracking down his students, established a new location for the school in Florida, and expanded his outreach to help several more communities in the southeastern United States. He continued his efforts while battling a life-threatening illness. Now, ten years removed from the costliest natural disaster in American history, Wuerffel returns to New Orleans to dedicate the rebuilding of the Desire Community Square and further the cause he joined two decades ago.
“Miracles on the Plains” – Directed by Rory Karpf
On April 23, 2013, the oaks at Toomer’s Corner had to be removed. More than two years earlier, those trees at Auburn University’s historic landmark had been poisoned, casting a dark shadow over the school. Meanwhile, the Auburn football team went from National Champions in 2010 to the bottom of the SEC by 2012. Head coach Gene Chizik was fired and replaced by Gus Malzahn, the offensive coordinator of that national title team. Expectations were bleak entering the 2013 season, as Malzahn inherited a team coming off its worst season in 60 years. What followed was one of the biggest single-season turnarounds in college football history – a year of implausible finishes, cinematic heroics, games for the ages…and, eventually, the symbolic return of those mighty oaks.
“The Bo You Don’t Know” – Directed by Brian Goodwin
When the name “Bo” is uttered in SEC circles, images of Bo Jackson’s domination at Auburn quickly come to mind. But there is another Bo who is likely far less familiar to SEC followers. That would be Robert “Bo” Rein, whose pedigree could be traced to stints under Woody Hayes, Lou Holtz, and Frank Broyles. A former baseball and football standout at Ohio State, Rein was building a reputation as an innovator who inspired those around him. He became the youngest head coach in major college football when he took over at NC State at the age of 30. He brought the Wolfpack national rankings, bowl wins and an ACC title. At the end of the 1979 season, LSU hired Rein, hoping that his youthful energy could revitalize its program. But the unthinkable happened. Returning from a recruiting trip on January 10, 1980, the small plane in which he was flying crashed in the Atlantic Ocean, roughly 1,000 miles off course. That tragedy devastated his family and friends and left so many others wondering, “What might have been?”
“Tigers United” – Directed by Marquis Daisy
When Michael Sam announced on February 9, 2014 that he was gay, he became football’s first openly gay active player. For most, the revelation was a surprise. For his teammates in Columbia Missouri, it was not news. In the Tigers football family, Michael had found acceptance. The extraordinary bond Sam forged with wide receiver L’Damian Washington and defensive tackle Marvin Foster was bigger than football – they became brothers. That brotherhood helped bring the Tigers together on the field in 2013 and fueled the 12-2 SEC East Championship season.
“In Search of Derrick Thomas” – Directed by Joe Lavine
Life was never easy for Derrick Thomas. At the age of 5, his father, an Air Force pilot, was lost in Vietnam during a flying mission. As an adolescent growing up in a rough Miami neighborhood, Thomas ran afoul of the law and found himself in front of a judge who would give him a second chance. He turned his life around, became a star on the gridiron and attracted the attention of the University of Alabama, where he established himself as arguably the greatest pass rusher in college football history. He went on to an outstanding career as a linebacker with the Kansas City Chiefs, and in 1993, he was named the NFL’s Man of the Year for his charitable contributions to the community. But at the age of 33, he was paralyzed in a car accident and died shortly thereafter, leaving behind a towering legacy that would put him in both the College and Pro Football Halls of Fame. He also had a son he never knew, Matt Naylor, who narrates this moving testament of discovery.