Originally posted on Awful Announcing  |  Last updated 2/27/12

Football players and the Academy Awards aren't exactly foreign to each other these days, especially considering how The Blind Side earned a Best Picture nomination in 2009 (and saw Sandra Bullock take home the Oscar for Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role), but it's more unusual to see a real gridiron veteran recognized for work behind the scenes. That's the case with former Washington Huskies center and current ESPN/ABC analyst Ed Cunningham. Cunningham served as a producer on the high school football documentary Undefeated, which picked up the Oscar for best documentary Sunday night. It's just the latest accolade for Cunningham's documentary work (he's served as a producer on such documentaries as King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters, New York Doll and Make Believe), and it's fitting considering that Undefeated saw him make a rare return to gridiron subjects. As Cunningham told Sam Farmer of the Los Angeles Times, he normally tries to avoid football in his documentary work, but this film was too attractive to pass up

“Because of my day job, I’ve kind of shied away from direct sports material as a producer,” said Cunningham, 42, an ESPN college football analyst who spent five seasons as a center for the Arizona Cardinals and Seattle Seahawks. “But I just kind of had a sense, along with my partners, that this would see beyond the field and really dive into the lives of these young men and the volunteer coach profiled in the film.

“It shows sports for what they should be about in the amateur level, which is learning how to be a better person through effort and failure, correction and criticism, and teamwork. I think that’s why we all aspire to be around sports so much. There’s so much more to it than just the on-field or on-court competition. And that’s what I’m so proud of with this film: You don’t have to be a fan of any sport, football or otherwise, to really engage with this story and the idea of people struggling and finding something in their lives positive and constructive to focus on.”

The film is a pretty impressive story, and perhaps fittingly given Cunningham's filmmaking interests, it goes well beyond football. On the surface, the documentary is the story of the rise of the Manassas Tigers football program in Memphis, but it's earning praise for much more than that. IFC's Stephen Saito wrote that "the film is a triumph not because Lindsay and Martin document the rise of a winning program, but because they’ve captured something far more winning about the goodness of people and a strength that isn’t limited to physical prowess," and The Seattle Times' Moira Macdonald wrote that the filmamkers saw it as "a story about fathers and sons, about opportunity and the lack of it, and about resilience and perseverance in a world that doesn't always unfold like a movie."

Cunningham's shown that he knows how to tell good stories that aren't tied into his football background, but Undefeated may have allowed him to synthesize the two areas of his life. If he carries on with that, sports fans everywhere may soon know his name as a top sports film producer, not just a guy who used to play football. 

[Seattle Times, Los Angeles Times]


Like Awful Announcing on Facebook Follow Awful Announcing on Twitter
MORE FROM YARDBARKER:
Cult of Sport: Before there was Ezekiel Elliott, there was Eric Dickerson
GET THE YARDBARKER APP:
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Louisville's Lamar Jackson wins 2016 Heisman Trophy

Carmelo Anthony ‘skeptical’ of new CBA before Thursday deadline

Erik Spoelstra on sitting Hassan Whiteside: ‘This league is for competitors only’

Andrew McCutchen admits trade rumors left him ‘on edge’

Leicester City put up three goals in first 20 minutes against Manchester City

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Houston regent: Lane Kiffin ‘was not a safe hire’

Adam Jones takes a shot at Terrelle Pryor

Jeff Fisher, Les Snead deny ‘toxic’ relationship reports

‘Field of Dreams’ 24-diamond complex clears final hurdle, will build on site from film

Dorial Green-Beckham fined for wearing non-charity Yeezy cleats

Chargers GM won’t commit to Mike McCoy’s return in 2017

Winners, losers and what is still pending from baseball's 2016 Winter Meetings

The best (and worst) times athletes hosted 'SNL'

Why UCLA's Lonzo Ball is the most interesting player in college hoops

The NBA goes courtside to curbside: Drinks and rides for discerning fans

Five teams on upset alert in NFL Week 14

CFB Crash Course, Graduation: Final grades and awards

NHL All-Star Game fans are in search of another John Scott

Box Score 12/9: Carey Price has had enough of your nonsense

MLB Winter Meetings, Day 4: News, notes and rumors

Matt Ryan is now Mr. Pick-Two

Ten most significant developments of the NBA season

Sporting life: Gifts for the fan who is always on point

All Sports News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
the YARDBARKER app
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

Winners, losers and what is still pending from the 2016 Winter Meetings

Why UCLA's Lonzo Ball is the most interesting player in college hoops

The NBA goes courtside to curbside: Drinks and rides for discerning fans

CFB Crash Course, Graduation: Final grades and awards

The five best (and worst) times athletes hosted 'SNL'

NHL All-Star Game fans are in search of another John Scott

Sporting life: Gifts for the fan who is always on point

Matt Ryan is now Mr. Pick-Two

MLB Winter Meetings, Day 4: News, notes and rumors

The 10 best sports docs available for streaming

Today's Best Stuff
For Publishers
Company Info
Help
Follow Yardbarker