Fabled 1963 Navy football team to be subject of documentary film by Michael Meredith

Bill Wagner
Contact Reporterbwagner@capgaznews.com

The Capital has learned Navy’s 1963 football team will be immortalized through a documentary film currently in the works.

Michael Meredith, an independent filmmaker and founder of Maximon Pictures, has already begun conducting interviews, compiling footage and writing a script for “The President’s Team” and was in Annapolis this past weekend to spend time with members of the 1963 club as it celebrated its 55th anniversary.

That legendary squad, led by captain Tom Lynch, ranks as one of the greatest in Navy history and holds a special place in college football folklore.

Navy concluded the 1963 regular season with a 9-1 record and ranked No. 2 nationally by the two wire services (Associated Press, United Press International). The Midshipmen boasted the greatest player in college football that year in quarterback Roger Staubach, a first-team All-American and recipient of both the Heisman Trophy and equally prestigious Maxwell Trophy.

Navy earned an invitation to the Cotton Bowl in Dallas, where it lost to top-ranked Texas in a showdown for the national championship.

However, what etched that Navy team into history was the 1963 Army-Navy game, which was delayed a week due to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy on Nov. 22, 1963.

While the documentary will bear the same title as Michael Connelly’s book, “The President’s Team: The 1963 Army-Navy Game and the Assassination of JFK,” Meredith said the documentary is different because it is not based off the 1963 Army-Navy game.

“We want to tell the story about the 1963 Navy team with particular focus on the players and the bonds they formed while at the Naval Academy and how that played out later in life,” Meredith said. “All these guys did amazing things and they credit their time at the academy and being part of that great football team as being crucial to their success. I guess you could say that Michael Connelly provided the playbook and I’m calling some audibles.”

Meredith is the son of legendary Dallas Cowboys quarterback and Monday Night Football analyst “Dandy” Don Meredith. The Los Angeles resident is best known for such feature films as “Three Days of Rain,” “Land of Plenty” and “The Open Road,” the latter of which starred Oscar winners Jeff Bridges and Mary Steenburgen along with Justin Timberlake and Kate Mara.

However, Meredith recently produced his first sports documentary, “The Ice Bowl,” which chronicled the legendary 1967 NFL Championship game between the Dallas Cowboys and Green Bay Packers. That was a labor of love for the filmmaker since his father was the starting quarterback for the Cowboys in that epic game.

Staubach, who as a 27-year-old rookie in 1969 succeeded Meredith as Dallas starting quarterback, was interviewed for “The Ice Bowl” documentary. It was Staubach who recommended Meredith take the helm of “The President’s Team” project, which was the brainchild of Joe Sai.

Sai is the son of Johnny Sai, starting halfback on the 1963 team who still holds the Navy record for longest play from scrimmage with a 93-yard run against Duke.

“Joe has long had a dream and a determination to create a documentary about the 1963 Navy football team and I’m trying to bring that to fruition,” Meredith said.

Meredith envisions a feature-length documentary that will be a mixture of interviews with former players and coaches, archived footage and reenactment scenes. Much of the dramatization will tell the stories of team members such as Tom Holden, a decorated Marine infantry officer who was killed in Vietnam.

Holden’s story, for example, would be told through the reenactment scenes as Meredith seeks to “give the film some contemporary edge.”

“So many of these 1963 players did fascinating things during their lives and each one had a pinnacle moment when they faced obstacles that had to be overcome. We want the documentary to tell some of those stories,” Meredith said. “I’m really looking forward to meeting the rest of the team this weekend and crystallizing where this film is going.”

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