A former colleague, sportswriter Neil Hayes, recently alerted me that a clip from the upcoming film based on his book about Concord's legendary De La Salle High School football program, "When the Game Stands Tall," will air Friday night on ESPN.

I can't wait. Not just because my family has a history with De La Salle sports. And not because Neil is one of those guys I can't think of even one bad thing to say about. No, really, I'm trying. Nothing.

The biggest reason this excites me is because I love football movies. And, for some strange reason, I'm even more into the genre as this season starts than I've been in a long time -- despite being a Raiders fan whose soul has been crushed every autumn for more than a decade.

Burt Reynolds stars with Adam Sandler and Chris Rock in "The Longest Yard," a remake of his 1974 classic.
Burt Reynolds stars with Adam Sandler and Chris Rock in "The Longest Yard," a remake of his 1974 classic. (Los Angeles Times/Mark Boster.)

I can't wait to see Neil's movie (it's not really his movie, but I like to say I know important people). It won't be released for another year, but in the meantime, plenty of great football movies are available to hold us over. And when discussing great football movies, it all pretty much begins and ends with:

  • "The Longest Yard": If you're saying to yourself, "I didn't think that Adam Sandler flick was so great," may you come back as a Green Bay Packers' blocking sled in your next incarnation. I, of course, am talking about the 1974 original, not Sandler's remake. The first one was made back when Burt Reynolds (a running back at Florida State many years ago) wasn't afraid of real scripts and real hairlines. With Eddie Albert in a surprisingly menacing role as a prison warden and Reynolds as the disgraced ex-pro football player looking for redemption in a prison inmates-vs.-guards gridiron game, it's a must-see for any real football fan.


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  • "Brian's Song": A decade before nerds came to know him as Lando Calrissian of "Star Wars," Billy Dee Williams played Gale Sayers, one of the greatest running backs in history and good friend to fellow Chicago Bears running back Brian Piccolo (played by James Caan), who died of cancer while the pair played together during the 1960s. Even though it's more than 40 years old, I dare any football lover out there to get through this film without sobbing. In fact ... oh jeez, here I go. Must. Not. Cry.

  • "North Dallas Forty": Adapted from Peter Gent's novel, which was inspired by his years as a wide receiver for the Dallas Cowboys, this was one of those movies that made men go out and try to behave like its characters. Was it really a good movie? Probably not. But any film featuring Dabney Coleman and John Matuszak can't be anywhere near bad.

  • "The Blind Side": Speaking of crying, you know you did when you saw "The Blind Side." I didn't, but you did. Based on the real-life story of Baltimore Ravens' offensive tackle Michael Oher, it chronicles his rise from a homeless child and troubled high schooler to college success story, with a lot of help from adoptive mother Leigh Anne Tuohy (played by Sandra Bullock, in a role that earned her an Academy Award). You probably cried just reading that last sentence.

  • "Jerry Maguire": OK, so maybe it's more a romantic comedy than football movie. When people aren't focusing on all the now-immortal lines this film delivered ("Show me the money," "You had me at hello," etc.), "Jerry Maguire" was a fascinating look into the world of sports agents and their relationships with players.

  • "Heaven Can Wait": Another great film with a great cast that isn't strictly a football movie. Warren Beatty stars as Los Angeles Rams quarterback Joe Pendleton, who gets yanked out of his body by an angel before an accident can (or can't) kill him. Hilarity ensues as he gets another chance at life through a millionaire's body before getting his redemptive shot at a Super Bowl victory. Go ahead, try and guess whether he won.

    Contact Tony Hicks at Facebook.com/BayAreaNewsGroup.TonyHicks or Twitter.com/insertfoot.