“Football coach” is an archetype every American is intuitively familiar with. Even if you’ve never had any interest in football, you’re familiar with the square jaws, the furrowed brows, the yelling, the performative intensity.
There is a way we expect football coaches to be and to appear, and if you were scouring the college football ranks for a real college football coach to play a football coach in the movies, these would be your guys.
Mark Dantonio, Michigan State Spartans
For my money, nobody looks more like a quintessential football coach than Michigan State’s Mark Dantonio, who helpfully has a personality to match. Dantonio is the guy you want if you need a character who catches a kid stealing from his garage, and instead of calling the cops, decides to teach the kid a life lesson, and then years later that kid becomes the best player this town has ever seen (but he’s still got some stuff to work out with his dad).
Kevin Sumlin, Arizona Wildcats
The only people left in the modern world who are still wearing visors are football coaches and elderly women at outdoor graduation ceremonies. And like Kliff Kingsbury’s Wayfarers, Kevin Sumlin’s visor is a key part of his whole career. He’d lose his mojo without it.
So that shoots him right up to the top third of the list, but it’s the intensity in his eyes and his folksy combativeness that would make him a great candidate for a character who has a good team but is under way more pressure than anyone realizes because of some problem at home that keeps growing bigger and bigger.
Pat Fitzgerald, Northwestern Wildcats
Finally, the square-jawed hero this town needs!
Pat Fitzgerald looks like what you picture in your head when somebody says “United States Marine.” In a war movie, Pat Fitzgerald is the idealistic Boy Scout Next Door type who gets killed in the most heart-wrenching way possible. In a football movie, he’s the idealistic Boy Scout Next Door type who has to make the tough decision to kick off the team’s best player right before the big game.