Inspiration for ‘Woodlawn’ to speak at Brooks Memorial Baptist Church

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Former Alabama State Sen. Hank Erwin, the inspiration for the movie “Woodlawn” will be the guest speaker at Brooks Memorial Baptist Church on Sunday morning.

“Woodlawn” is a movie based on a true story that happened in Birmingham in 1973 and 1974. The movie tells a story about how a football team faced many issues, including integration, and dealing with them in a spiritual manner. As a result, their decision changes the school and community.

Erwin’s sons, Andy and Jon, directed the film. Jon and Quinton Peeples wrote the film.

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“My plan is to talk about the secrets that made the whole Woodlawn story,” Erwin said about his talk this Sunday. “I want to give the inside story and how it applies to a spiritual life.”

Erwin said a lot of people have seen the movie and want to know the inside story and how it all came about.

Erwin said his sons grew up on bedtime stories on Woodlawn, which came to be the inspiration for the film.

“They said when they were children that they were going to make it into a motion picture,” he said. “Thirty years later, they made something that’s spectacular.”

“Woodlawn,” starring Sean Astin, known for his role in “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy; “Rudy;” and Jon Voight, among others, captured the hearts and minds of the country upon its release in October 2015.

High school and some top college football teams were inspired by the movie’s message.

“It just touched a nerve all over the country,” Erwin said.

Erwin said the University of Alabama was the first team that saw the movie, and Clemson University came calling soon afterward. Both eventually met in the College Football Playoff National Championship Game last January.

“It was really thrilling that ‘Woodlawn’ really inspired a lot of the spiritual connections of the national championship game,” Erwin said. “(Clemson coach Dabo) Swinney bought into it. That was a typical reaction all over the county. We had thousands and thousands of athletes impacted and inspired by playing for a higher purpose. That’s what brought the magic to football field.”

Erwin, a Birmingham native, said in 1974, Woodlawn High School and Banks High School met in a No. 1 versus No. 2 showdown among undefeated teams, and drew the largest crowd for a high school game at Legion Field.