Kevin Costner Dabbled in Football to Make ‘Draft Day,’ One of His Lesser-Known Sports Movies

by Suzanne Halliburton
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Yellowstone star Kevin Costner excelled in sentimental movies about baseball and golf — but do you remember Draft Day, his foray into football?

That was back when he played Cleveland Browns General Manager Sonny Weaver in Draft Day. The film premiered nationally, April 11, 2014. And it had the blessing of the NFL. The title of the movie gives a big clue as to why a film about football would be released in the spring. But it was all about draft day, the time when NFL teams shop for future stars.

And Kevin Costner had some star power with him in this football movie. Sam Elliott, the 1883 star, portrayed the football coach at Wisconsin. His quarterback Bo Callahan was supposed to be the top prospect in the draft. Meanwhile, Dennis Leary was the Browns coach. These days, Leary is head of a police gang on Law & Order: Organized Crime.

Jennifer Garner portrays the Browns’ finance manager. She’s also the secret love interest of Costner’s. And her character finds out she’s pregnant.

The late Chadwick Boseman, the future Black Panther, played Ohio State linebacker Vontae Mack. Costner’s Weaver really wants to draft Mack. The Browns owned the seventh pick. But some last-minute wheeling and dealing had the Browns securing the rights to No. 1 and Bo Callahan. Here’s the problem. Weaver doesn’t really want Callahan.

(Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

Kevin Costner As Sonny Weaver In Draft Day Is Unlike His Other Sports Characters

Kevin Costner and Draft Day doesn’t have much to do with X’s and O’s. It’s a business kind of movie. It’s also more about following your gut as opposed to the conventional and easy. Draft Day isn’t anything like Costner’s other sports movies. It doesn’t have the quirky romance of Bull Durham or the poetic mysticism of Field of Dreams. Costner’s too successful to be like his aimless character in Tin Cup. And in For the Love of the Game, Costner is an aging baseball pitcher, not a middle-aged general manager.

Costner liked the idea that he didn’t have to play the hero athlete to be a hero in this sports movie.

“It’s a very intuitive person that understands that the game always doesn’t have to be about the winning shot, doesn’t always have to be about winning,” Costner told USA Today. “That a lot of heroism can come out of defeat, a lot of level of high understanding, empathy, can come out of somebody who just can’t get out of their own way but is true to themselves, even in the most crucial, critical moment of their life. And so, there’s a certain poetry that these characters have, vulgarity aside.”

Costner said he had the backing of the NFL before he made the movie. That’s why the film didn’t need to use fictitious teams and make-believe mascots. The characters were fictional, but real-life people played themselves throughout the movie.

“I wouldn’t have done this unless the NFL was involved” Costner told the Los Angeles Times. “The last thing I would want to do is a football movie with jerseys that I don’t recognize and names of teams that I don’t recognize. For some reason it loses all its appeal for me when there’s stuff that’s unrecognizable.

“But I do think (the NFL) looked at my body of work and understood I appreciate the vulgarity and the poetry of our sport,” Costner said. “It was important for them to let that seep in, because sometimes people can be too protective and it actually in a way hurts the image because it doesn’t come off as authentic.”

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