“The 2006 Rose Bowl: A Football Life” premieres Friday, January 2nd at 9pm/EST on NFL Network
By Greg Frith, Co-Producer
The 2006 Rose Bowl, a match-up between #1 USC and #2 Texas, was one of the greatest football games ever played, at any level. It featured big name coaches, Heisman Trophy winners, celebrity fans, and two football crazy states that have produced roughly 22% of today’s NFL players combined. But it wasn’t just the game itself that compelled NFL Films to produce a film on a college football game. It was the leading men from that game, and their stories. Matt Leinart and Vince Young are two of the most storied quarterbacks in college football history. They were college legends who are often viewed as disappointments because their NFL careers did not meet the bar they set for themselves prior to the pros. On the night of January 4, 2006, though, they staged one of the best shows this country had seen. We set out with the idea that the end of their football lives does not diminish their greatest moment on the field.
Getting Matt Leinart and Vince Young together in Pasadena was the key to making this film. Without it, we weren’t certain it was a film worth making. Even though both are out of football (this was the first summer neither was in camp with an NFL team), coordinating their schedules proved to be tricky. After months of trying, we were finally able to get Matt and Vince together in late August at the Rose Bowl for the first time since they shared the field back in 2006. They are not the kind of friends who call or text often, but the kind that when they do get together, act as if time has not moved on. They are in their 30s now, talking about their kids instead of football glory, but there is an ease in their conversation, a familiarity in their interaction. They share a lifetime of similar experiences – from being bullied at a young age, to rising to athletic greatness, to taking their college teams to the peak of the sport, to realizing their dreams of becoming an NFL draft pick, and to seeing that dream end without reaching the lofty heights they and their fans set. And today, they are attempting to move on with the next stage of their life. Both have returned to college; Matt works for Fox Sports 1 as a studio , while Vince is back in Austin working in alumni relations.
(Photos: Lindsay Spieler)
Typically, NFL players who are recently removed from the league still talk in “player speak”. Our concern was that they would spit back clichés that pro athletes are often conditioned to do. Much to our delight, this was not the case. Maybe it was their comfort with each other. Maybe, after being removed from the spotlight after 10+ years of living under its white hot light, they were just ready to “tell it like it is”. Either way, their honesty and openness was refreshing, and helped take the film to another level. Sure, this is a fun hour of television that features Matthew McConaughey and Snoop Dogg, Reggie Bush’s botched lateral, Pete Carroll’s questionable decision, the folksiness of legendary broadcaster Keith Jackson, behind-the-scenes NFL draft footage, Jeff Fisher talking about his days with Vince Young, and an incredible ending to an absolutely transcendent game. But it’s also an hour that will give you a fresh look at two superstars that you probably don’t know very well even though they were raised – and brought down – in the modern world of social media and professional athletes. After you watch “The 2006 Rose Bowl: A Football Life”, I’m guessing you will have the same feeling I did after spending the day with them in sunny southern California: they are two pretty likable guys who did some pretty remarkable things.
“The 2006 Rose Bowl: A Football Life” is produced by Jeff Cameron, Greg Frith, and John Weiss. The film premieres Friday, January 2nd at 9pm/EST on NFL Network.