‘Touchback’ touches a chord with Ohio football fans

“Touchback” star Brian Presley (right) takes a snap in a scene at Ohio Stadium on October 23, 2010. The cast and crew took the field during timeouts in Ohio State’s 49-0 over Purdue. Penda News Service Photos by Bryant Billing

Scott Murphy feels what many ex-football players feel. He also feels what almost every other human feels: regret.

And so begins a tale of football and life in the Midwest set in Mercer County. The new movie “Touchback” was released in select markets around the country last weekend, including Columbus and Cleveland in Ohio. It becomes the first movie ever to show a scene of a packed Ohio Stadium.

“Touchback” star Brian Presley (right) takes a snap in a scene at Ohio Stadium on October 23, 2010. The cast and crew took the field during timeouts in Ohio State’s 49-0 over Purdue. Penda News Service Photos by Bryant Billing

That alone was enough to get me to drive to Worthington from Springfield to catch a showing last weekend. That, and the fact that I was standing on the sidelines at Ohio Stadium when a scene from “Touchback” was filmed.

What began as a trip to see if I had made my motion picture début (I didn’t) ended with me walking out of the theater, assessing my priorities in life. It also left me with a feeling many modern movies lack to produce: joy.

“Touchback” takes place in Coldwater, Ohio (though a fictionalized version of Coldwater — there aren’t many hills, factories, and trailer parks in the real Coldwater) and centers around the life of ex-football star Scott Murphy. Murphy was Ohio’s Mr. Football in his senior season in 1991 and was set to further his career at Ohio State. But his dreams of playing for the Scarlet and Gray were cut short in the state championship game (yes — just simply “THE” state championship game) when he wrecks his left leg in a game-winning touchdown run.

Fast-forward to 2011, where Murphy (portrayed by Brian Presley, a former football star himself) limps around with a leg brace while working on his farm in Coldwater. He’s happily married with two daughters but frustrated that he is unable to, in his mind, properly provide for them.

Shortly after learning that the family farm was going to be foreclosed, Murphy attempts suicide. When he regains consciousness, he finds himself back in 1991, a week before the state championship game, with a chance to do it all over.

Director Don Hanfield (right) and crew film a scene of “Touchback.”

The movie ends on a positive (though predictable) note. It paints a great picture of life in some small Ohio towns, the emphasis placed on football, and the experiences ex-football stars go through wrestling with what could have been in their playing days.

Any football coach, player, or fan can relate in some sense to the movie to the emotions of victory and defeat Murphy faces. What’s more, almost any person can relate to the hard realities of life that set in on a person after high school.

“Touchback” is a touching film that football fans and people who detest sports can both appreciate. Presley gives a riveting, realistic performance (he’s able to portray both a 40-year old and a teenager without you noticing the difference). He is complemented by Kurt Russell, who portrays the longtime Coldwater head coach. Also included in the movie are fantastic performances by Melaine Lynskey as Murphy’s wife and Christine Lahti as Murphy’s mother.

This isn’t a movie that Los Angeles types would probably appreciate. But for Ohio or any football-loving state, this movie is well worth seeing. If you’re an Ohio high school football fan, it’s worth seeing just to finally witness Buckeye football on the big screen.

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avatar Bryant Billing (357 Posts)

Bryant Billing is a co-founder and the managing editor of TopBillingSports.com. He covers high school sports and regional sports for TopBillingSports.com. He also serves as a play-by-play man and analyst for the Top Billing Sports Network. Billing is a native of Springfield and a graduate of Kenton Ridge High School. He served as a sports writer for The Springfield Paper from 2007-2011 and also authored PendaSports.com for the newspaper. His work has appeared in several different newspapers, magazines, and websites.