The true story from which the inspirational movie Woodlawn starring Jon Voight, Sean Astin, and C. Thomas Howell, is based on African American running back Tony Nathan and his experiences on a mostly white team in 1970s Birmingham, Alabama, and how his courage and superb athletic ability helped heal a city, propelling him on to a successful football career as both a player and a coach in the NFL.
When Tony Nathan got his hands on a football, it was like Superman putting on his cape. He stepped onto the field and became a different person—a hero destined to change the course of Alabama history. Somehow, when he held a football, he knew exactly what to do, and it was those instincts that helped him navigate life in one of the most tumultuous cities in America.
In this powerful memoir, Tony reveals how he summoned the courage to “run with a purpose” during the times when racial tensions were at their highest as he grew from a boy trapped by the racial divide in Birmingham, Alabama, into a successful man and football hero.
Tony’s courage, character, passion, and strength contributed to his impressive career on the field—including two Super Bowls with the Miami Dolphins—and then as a coach who helped train other winning players.
Inspirational and uplifting, Touchdown Tony is not only a behind-the-scenes look at a great football player’s life and career, it is also a story of redemption and one man’s hope to change the future.
Tony Nathan was the African American Woodlawn High School running back in the legendary game of 1974 in Birmingham, Alabama. He was a Parade All-American in high school and went on to play for Paul “Bear” Bryant at the University of Alabama, winning a national championship in 1978. In 1979, he began playing for the Miami Dolphins and played with them from until 1987, which included being the starting running back in Super Bowl XVII and Super Bowl XIX. In 1981, he was named the team’s MVP. After his retirement, he began coaching, eventually becoming the running backs coach for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. In 2006, he was inducted into the Senior Bowl Hall of Fame and made his return to the NFL when he was hired by the Baltimore Ravens. He is currently the Bailiff for former teammate Judge Edward Newman in Miami-Dade County court.
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