2 former A-K Valley football standouts line up as extras in film starring Will Smith
Matt Ostrowski doesn’t play football anymore, but the former Highlands lineman sure acts like he does.
Same goes for former Valley defensive back A.J. Saunders.
Ostrowski, now an assistant coach at Highlands, and Saunders, will be paid extras in the Pittsburgh-filmed Sony Pictures movie about the NFL’s longtime battle with concussions and the accompanying controversy.
The big-budget film stars Will Smith.
Both former college starters, Ostrowski (Buffalo) and Saunders (Slippery Rock) will play their go-to positions in the film.
They shot scenes last Saturday at Cupples Stadium on Pittsburgh’s South Side.
“I saw an ad in the newspaper and they were looking for players that looked like Division I football players,” said Ostrowski, 25, who tried out among more than 80 other potential linemen and made the top-five cut.
“The day we filmed, we had a practice. We ran gassers, we did ‘bull in the ring’ and Oklahoma drills.”
Ostrowski said he was told much of the filming was for background scenes. Neither local player has speaking parts.
“It was definitely a great experience,” said Saunders, 27 who is not currently playing football and most recently played in the Arena Football League. “And to be a part of a movie, playing the sport I love, couldn’t get any better.”
Ostrowski said Will Smith shook players’ hands and thanked them for their participation.
Paid extras will get $650, Ostrowski said.
“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime thing,” he said.
Smith will portray Dr. Bennet Omalu, the man who discovered severe brain damage in former Steelers center Mike Webster.
Webster, an NFL Hall of Famer, died in 2002 at age 50.
The film also reportedly will touch on the story of another former Steeler, Justin Strzelczyk, who died in 2004 during a high-speed police chase. It was revealed that he, too, had suffered repeated head trauma while playing football.
The film’s release date has not been scheduled.
Bill Beckner Jr. is the local sports editor of the Valley News Dispatch. Reach him at email@example.com.