Ryan Coogler had quit Sacramento State’s football team back in 2007 just when Coach Sperbeck was starting his time with the Hornets.
Coogler pledged to Sperbeck that he’d meet every challenge if given a second chance.
He got that chance, and now coach believes it’s that intense work ethic that has Coogler on the brink of Hollywood gold.
On the Hornets’ home turf, Coogler made his mark as a wide receiver.
Now he’s receiving accolades throughout the film world as the winner of the Audience and Grand Jury prizes at this year’s Sundance Film Festival.
Here’s how he describes his vision of film making on the festival’s website:
“[I] really had the passion in my mind. someday I’m gonna learn how to do this well enough to where I can make a life and just do this all the time,” said Coogler.
Coogler’s spent all his recent time on “Fruitvale,” the movie that’s put him right in the Hollywood spotlight with a $2.5 million distribution deal.
After the way he talked himself back into being a Hornet and then delivered on all he promised, his old coach isn’t at all surprised to see where Coogler is now.
“I think the more you’re passionate about writing films or playing football or going for a work out or whatever it may be you’re going to be successful and I really think that’s why he is,” said CSUS head football coach Marshall Sperbeck.
Coogler’s movie details the last day in the life of Oscar Grant, a 22- year-old unarmed Hayward man killed by BART police at the train system’s Fruitvale station.
He was shot Jan. 1, 2009 after a fight broke out among crowds returning from New Year’s Eve celebrations.
The officer who shot him claimed he thought he was pulling his taser, not his gun, and that Grant was armed.
“Lot of anger about the situation, a lot of frustration and not what just what happened to Oscar, but the fact that these things continue to happen in society. That was made into a positive energy on the film, said Coogler on the Sundance website.
Coach Sperbeck says this former Sac State player and student is teaching a great lesson with how he’s attacking his life’s work.
“I just think it’s easy through the course of a game or life or going to school or anything you do is to get complacent and settle in. And I think his energy is what separates him from other people competing against him in this new world,” Sperbeck said.
Actor Forest Whitaker is tapping into Coogler’s energy, working on the film as its executive producer.