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Charles S. Dutton is one of the stars of ‘Carter High.’ (Courtesy Photo)

Making good decisions and performing at an elite level helped Greg Ellis become an all pro defensive lineman during a 12 year NFL career.  As executive producer of the movie “Carter High,” Ellis is using his talent as a football player to impart lessons from an iconic Dallas high school program whose championship was stripped after several players were incarcerated and involved in academic fraud with a lead actor who brings personal experiences from Baltimore to his role.

Charles S. Dutton plays Coach Freddie James, the man who built Carter High School’s program into a powerhouse. James, who won 147 games during his legendary career, led them to the Texas 5A championship in 1988 only to have it vacated for using an academically ineligible player

“The script is perfect for a Charles Dutton character,” said Ellis in an interview with the {AFRO}.  “Helping kids out by sharing his story is what he does all day every day.  This role really fits him perfectly”. Dutton was convicted of manslaughter in the 1970s and, in addition to being an actor today, is a motivational speaker.

The cast also includes rapper David Banner and Vivica A. Fox, who plays James’ wife.

“I appreciate her attitude about smaller films and helping independent filmmakers take the craft to the next level if the story is worth being told,” said Ellis.  “

“Carter High” is the dramatic recollection of the 1988 football program from the Dallas suburbs that was the last to win a Texas High School championship.  Some experts say it was the greatest high school football team ever featuring four future NFL players including Jesse Armstead, the only three time Parade All America prep standout ever.  Though Armstead would play college football at the University of Miami and win two national championships before his NFL career, his path would have been different without personal discipline.

Two other Division I recruits – Derric Evans and Gary Edwards – were convicted for their roles in a series of video store and restaurant robberies.  Evans was sentenced to 20 years while Edwards was sentenced to serve 16 in 1989 though he was paroled in 1993.  They were among 15 students, including six football players, who participated in what came to be known as “Carter robberies”.  Edwards’s questionable Algebra grade was the catalyst for the demise of their championship season.

“This story still resonates because it shows how some of the best players can get caught up making bad decisions and how it affected their lives,” said Hardy.  “With so much attention on high school athletes and sports this movie shows bad decisions alter your life”.

Social wounds divided the community, but, there is still a mythical quality that surrounds them.  Carter beat Odessa Perrimen 14-9 in the 1988 state semifinals that was chronicled in the 1990 best seller and 2004 movie “Friday Night Lights.”  The portrayal of the team in that movie alienated many from the Dallas suburb but the reverence of the team is what attracted Ellis to make this film.

“This ‘Carter High’ thing is the other side of ‘Friday Night Lights’,” Ellis said.  “They were more popular in Dallas than the Cowboys at the time.  The team got 37 minutes of airtime during that movie which is unthinkable considering the story was about Odessa Perrimen’s season”.

Ellis, who played 10 years with the Dallas Cowboys, launched his film company Play Now Enterprises after retiring in 2010.  Being a former pro athlete proved to be a catch 22 while embarking on this new challenge.  There were some who doubted his credibility while others were attracted to his celebrity.

“Carter High” is the company’s first major project and Ellis hopes that it won’t typecast him as a filmmaker.  Stephen Spielberg and Tyler Perry are his filmmaking role models and he plans to vary his projects while giving independent writers and directors a break.

“My goal is to entertain and enlighten you at the same,” said Ellis.

 

Carter High’ is in theaters now.