John Wayne, a couple of decades after he died, made an appearance as a crusty old football coach, showing an NFL rookie how to properly block.
Call it the miracle of movie-making. Although John Wayne died in 1979, his image became part of a Coors Beer ad campaign in the 1990s. In one of the commercials, he was there right alongside Howie Long, the former Oakland Raider great who now is an analyst for Fox Sports NFL coverage.
Long plays the coach in the commercial, which is dubbed Rookie Camp. He tells a frustrated rookie offensive lineman named Jensen: “This isn’t college, it’s time to show what you’ve got.” Jensen’s bad blocks are getting the running back smashed.
Jensen says “If I get beat this time, cold ones for everybody.”
So Long brings in the big gun. It’s John Wayne, the old coach. And like any terrific offensive line coach, he puts his hand in the dirt and shows his players how it’s done.
Wayne barks: “You’re never going to make a block with your center up. Keep it down, your head up, back straight. Keep a leg under you, then DRIVE.”
And Wayne fires off the line so quickly he knocks Jensen on his rear.
By the end of the commercial, Jensen walks into Wayne’s office with a six pack. Wayne asks “no hard feelings?”
And Jensen quips “it’s not exactly my feelings that hurt, sir.”
John Wayne Played Football Coach in Trouble Along the Way
The makers of the beer commercial used old footage from a movie where Wayne played an old football coach. That was Trouble Along the Way from 1953. In the movie, Wayne was a former big-time college coach who is hired at St. Anthony’s College. The school is failing financially and is pinning its hopes on the football team to save it.
Variety gave the movie good reviews, writing:” John Wayne is completely at home in a role that, while action-ful in most phases, leans towards a humorous lightness. Charles Coburn wallops dialog lines delightfully incongruous to the priest character he plays. Donna Reed gives her role as a probation officer all that it needs. Other standout in casting is young Sherry Jackson, as Wayne’s little daughter.”
Coors received permission from the John Wayne family to use his image. In exchange, the company made a donation to the John Wayne Cancer Institute. Coors also used CGI of Wayne and the cast of Bonanza for another commercial.
And in the movie, Trouble Along the Way, John Wayne definitely was authentic. Before he started acting, Wayne attended school and played football for Southern Cal. He was a lineman. However, Wayne broke his collar bone and lost his scholarship.
Years later, he still knew how to throw a block. Check out the commercial: