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THE LONGEST YARD

Building A Mean Machine
To round out the cast of cons and guards, the filmmakers turned to real-life NFL players, pro wrestlers, and tough guys. "You can't fake football,” says director Peter Segal. "This is America's game – everyone is an expert. The hits have to be real. I prided myself on really getting in there and seeing the faces of the actual players and actors who were performing their own stunts.”

At the center of the Mean Machine is their star receiver, Deacon Moss. To play the role, the filmmakers called on one of the greatest players in the history of the game: former Dallas Cowboys receiver – and Football Hall of Fame nominee – Michael Irvin. 

"I hadn't put the pads on in a long time,” says Irvin. "As soon as I did, I started thinking about playing again – I couldn't help it. But I got so beat up, sore, and tired from this movie – I can't imagine ever going back.

"The difference between a movie and the real game is when you're shooting the movie, if you're about to get bust in the mouth, you can call in the stunt double,” Irvin jokes. "But I do love the game, I love it.”

That said, Irvin notes that there was one important way in which shooting a movie was very much like playing football. "What I found to be very profound is that we put a bunch of guys together who did not know each other and we really came together like a regular football team. We spent a lot of time together, just like you do in the NFL, and we became a real team.”

World Champion Wrestler Bill Goldberg also put the pads back on after several years off the field. Though he went on to his greatest fame as a wrestler, Goldberg logged five seasons in the NFL. "It felt great putting on the pads again, after ten years,” says Goldberg, "but it sure didn't feel good the next day – I woke up and felt like I'd been hit by a Mack truck.”

Even so, Goldberg relished the chance to play a character that fit his persona. "I knew that if I was gonna be in this movie, I wanted to be the most violent guy on the field, responsible for delivering the most violent blows possible,” he says. "I'm out for every single guard there is out there. They're all on my hit list.”

Several former NFL and wrestling greats play guards in the film, taking on the Mean Machine. Four-time Super Bowl champion Bill Romanowski landed the role of the most violent guard in the film. "You can't fake football. You can't fake hitting somebody,” says Romanowski. 

True to form, Romanowski relished the action on the field. "To put the pads on again, to come out and fly around and play football was great,” he says. "The one thing you miss leaving football is the camaraderie. You miss the team, you miss the guys. This has been a replacement for that. It was a lot of fun.”

Romanowski, famous for his toughness on the playing field, took a page from the playbook of former Green Bay Packer great Ray Nitschke. While filming the 1974 film, Nitschke would often try to tackle the star, Burt Reynolds. "Romo is an authentic champion,” says Giarraputo. "It seemed like he'd forget he was on a movie set; he put on the pads and in his mind, he was playing pro ball again. He was trying to tackle people for real. His energy is genuine.”

Wrestler Kevin Nash is Guard Engleheart, who decides to use steroids to get an edge on the football field. Though Nash has great athletic ability and an imposing physical presence, his football skills were rusty. "I was a basketball player in school and haven't played football since I was in the 10th grade,” he says. "So when we would practice and they would say, ‘We're gonna shift,' I would say, ‘What does that mean?'” he laughs. "Bill Romanowski was my mentor out there. He dragged me through it.”

K-1 Kickboxer Bob Sapp fights internationally as The Beast, but, as he notes, "The Beast takes many forms. This time, The Beast is a kitte

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