Friday May 4th - 1:45 PM - 3:45 PM
Honey Bee Theatre
Saturday May 5th - 10:00 AM - 12:00 PM
Marvel Experience at Skylight 3
Gene Washington's professional football career ended long before his filmmaker daughter, Maya Washington, was born. As a result, Maya never fully explored her once famous father’s career or its impact on her life and on American history. In an effort to better connect with her father and appreciate the sport that changed the trajectory of his life, she retraces Gene’s footsteps from the segregated South to Michigan State, and later the NFL, throughout the course of a modern football season. Their father/daughter bond grows as Maya immerses herself in today’s college football culture, imagining what life was like for Gene and his teammates, the first fully-integrated college football team in America.
Current and former players reflect on how the racial demographics seen on the field today are due in large part to Hall of Fame coach Duffy Daugherty’s innovative approach to recruiting African American men from the South to MSU in the 1960s, known as the “Underground Railroad” of college football. The success of Daugherty’s teams (MSU’s 1965 and 1966 back-to-back Big Ten and National Champions) forced America to re-think prejudices that previously kept African American players from earning scholarships or starting positions. The impact of this is still felt in college and professional football today.
The film delves into the triumphs and defeats of Daugherty’s integrated team as they finish the season with the historic 1966 'Game of the Century,” a 10-10 tie against Notre Dame. Teammates Gene Washington, Bubba Smith, Clinton Jones, and George Webster make history as first round picks in the 1967 draft. Gene Washington and Clinton Jones bring momentum to the Minnesota Vikings, playing in the 1969 Super Bowl alongside legendary teammates Joe Kapp, Alan Page and Carl Eller.
Former players recall the highlights of the Minnesota Vikings’ “Purple People Eater” years, as well as the racial discrimination black players faced in the league, speaking to the overall impact African American pioneers had on players' rights, including free agency and the right to negotiate salaries. Her appreciation and gratitude for her father grows deeper as together they reveal how what happened 50 years ago is still relevant today
Director(s): Maya Washington
Writer(s): Maya Washington
Producer(s): Maya Washington, Selina Lewis (Consulting Producer)
Editor(s): Anisha Acharya
Cinematographer(s): TJ Schwingle
Production Designer(s): N/A
Music Composer(s): Matt Koskenmaki
Gene Washington, Bubba Smith, Clinton Jones, George Webster, Car Eller, Alan Page, Joe Kapp, Duffy Daugherty