March 22, 2023
The Legend of Paul Blake - Texas State | Necessary Roughness (1991)
For “Young as You Feel Day,” we focus on the fictional quarterback Paul Blake and the Texas State Armadillos from the 1991 film Necessary Roughness. The College Football Hall of Fame archives contains two “game-worn” Texas State jerseys from the feature film about a group of 17 football players forced to play 60-minute, ironman football when the entire program is given the NCAA Death Penalty for recruiting violations. The film ended up being more prescient than it had any right to.
Very loosely based on the story of the 1989 Southern Methodist Mustangs, who took the field with only 41 scholarship players when SMU’s own Death Penalty expired, Necessary Roughness’ main protagonist is Blake, a 34-year-old farmer who has not played since high school.
Blake starts the season for Texas State and the team loses every game until a tie in the penultimate game. They shock the top ranked (fake) University of Texas Colts in the season finale, benefiting from Blake’s maturity and leadership. The film was favorably reviewed but lightly attended and left theatres with little notice. In the pantheon of sporting films, it is largely forgettable except for two wonderful coincidences.
The first is that Paul Blake’s starting at quarterback at a relatively advanced age at the beginning of the decade was virtually copied at the end. Just five years after the film’s release, Chris Weinke became a real-world Paul Blake when he enrolled at Florida State University to play quarterback. The 25-year-old Weinke had accepted a scholarship to Florida State in 1990 but opted to spend the next six seasons playing minor league baseball in the Toronto Blue Jay organization. Weinke made it to the AAA level, just one step below Major League Baseball, but realized he might have a better chance of achieving his goal of playing in the top echelons of professional sports by going back to school and focusing on football.
He went on to a great career at Florida State, leading the Seminoles to the 1999 National Championship and winning the 2000 Heisman Trophy, Davey O’Brien Award, and Johnny Unitas Award. At 28-years old, he became the oldest winner of each of these prestigious honors.
The second coincidence has to do with the name of the school in the film: Texas State. Weinke’s first start came in the 1998 Kickoff Classic against Texas A&M, just as the fictional Paul Blake’s first career start came against a Texas school. In the film, Texas State opens the season against the real Southwest Texas State Bobcats. In 2003, Southwest Texas State changed their name to Texas State-San Marcos, and in 2013 to Texas State University. Sadly for fans of Necessary Roughness, the school kept their color scheme and nickname. They eschewed the fictitious Texas State’s colors of green and white and their nickname Armadillos. They are still the Bobcats and dress out in maroon and gold.
The legend of Paul Blake could only carry so far.