carter high

*In America, Sundays in the fall belong to the NFL.

In Texas Friday nights belong to high school football. It’s such a phenomenon, high school football games are broadcast as part of local television programming.

It’s what inspired the book, movie and network-TV series Friday Night Lights. A movie about the 1988 Dallas Carter High Cowboys opens today. It chronicles the football team that went from the city’s most praised to most criticized after criminal allegations threatened player eligibility and the team’s winning season.

The premier of “Carter High” was held in Dallas this week. Actress Vivica A. Fox was there. She was cast as Eva, wife of then Carter coach Freddie James. Charles Dutton was cast as James. Actor Marion “Pooch” Hall, known for his current role on Showtime’s Ray Donovan and his previous role on BET’s The Game, also stars in the movie as an assistant coach. Rapper David Banner is in the movie too.

Former student and player Arthur Muhammad wrote and directed the film about his team that won the State 5A Championship in 1988. The team was stripped of the title in 1991 after some players were caught up in a robbery scandal. Former NFL linebacker Jessie Armstead was on that Carter High team. He played eleven seasons with the New York Giants and Washington Redskins after leaving Dallas for Miami University. Armstead’s high school teammate, Gary Edwards – the star of the team – was among those sentenced to prison. He was paroled in 1993.

steffanie rivers & greg ellis

Writer Steffanie Rivers with retired NFL Lineman Greg Ellis

Former Dallas Cowboys defensive lineman Greg Ellis produced the movie through his company, Play Now Enterprise. Ellis, a North Carolina native, started the production company after twelve seasons in the NFL. During his tenure Ellis was one of a handful of pro ballers known as a Christian athlete. In a recent interview, Ellis said athletes need spiritual guidance as much as they need a coach.

“In professional sports you go through a lot of ups and downs. You may not perform the way you want to all the time. Having a spiritual foundation will help you through those times.”

“You might see athletes praying after the game or before the game, but after they clear the field it’s a different environment,” he said. When asked if he thought the NFL could do a better job of emphasizing the importance of personal responsibility off the field, Ellis said “yes, but it’s not (the league’s) priority.”

That lack of personal responsibility off the field often starts as early as high school for standout athletes and continues through a player’s professional career, if he’s a playmaker on the field. By that time million dollar contracts and nation-wide notoriety are added to that sense of invincibility, oftentimes leading to destruction.

Carter High opens today in Dallas and Houston before opening nationwide in November 13.