In 2003, Michael "Big Mike" Oher (Aaron) has been living in foster care with different families in Memphis, Tennessee. Every time he is placed in a new home, he runs away. His friend's father, on whose couch Michael has been sleeping, asks Burt Cotton, the coach of Wingate Christian School, to help enroll his son and Michael. Impressed by the boy's size and athleticism, Cotton gets him admitted despite a poor academic record. Michael is befriended by a young boy named Sean Jr. "S.J." Tuohy, who is unintimidated by his size. S.J.'s mother Leigh Anne Tuohy (Bullock), a strong-minded interior designer, begins to take notice of Michael as a troubled and lonely boy.
Jerry Maguire (Tom Cruise) is a glossy 35-year-old sports agent working for Sports Management International (SMI). After having a life-altering epiphany about his role as a sports agent, he writes a mission statement about perceived dishonesty in the sports management business and his desire to work with fewer clients so as to produce better quality. In turn, Management decides to send Bob Sugar (Jay Mohr), Jerry's protégé, to fire him. Jerry and Sugar call all of Jerry's clients to try convincing them not to hire the services of the other. Sugar secures most of Jerry's previous clients. Jerry speaks to Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Rod Tidwell (Cuba Gooding, Jr.), one of his clients who is disgruntled with his contract. Rod tests Jerry's resolve through a very long telephone conversation while Sugar is able to convince the rest of Jerry's clients to stick with SMI instead. Leaving the office, Jerry announces that he will start his own agency and asks if anyone is willing to join him, to which only 26-year-old single mother Dorothy Boyd (Renée Zellweger) agrees. Meanwhile, Frank "Cush" Cushman (Jerry O'Connell), a superstar quarterback prospect who expects to be the number one pick in the NFL Draft, also stays with Jerry after he makes a visit to the Cushman home. However, Sugar is able to convince Cushman and his father at the last minute to sign with SMI over Jerry. Cushman's father implies they decided to sign with Sugar over Jerry when they saw Jerry attending to Tidwell; an African-American player, versus his son (a white player).
After eight months of treatment for bipolar disorder, Pat Solitano is released from a mental health facility in Baltimore, and returns to Lansdowne, Pennsylvania into the care of his father Patrizio and mother Dolores. Pat soon learns that his estranged wife, Nikki, has moved away, and that his father is out of work and resorting to illegal bookmaking to earn money with the hopes of opening a restaurant. Pat is determined to get his life back on track and reconcile with Nikki, who obtained a restraining order against him after a violent episode sent him away.
Paul Crewe (Adam Sandler) is a former NFL player disgraced for shaving points in a big game. One night, he gets drunk and goes joyriding in his girlfriend's Bentley, totals it, gets arrested, and is sentenced to three years in a Texas Federal Prison for violating his parole.
Bobby Boucher is a socially inept water boy with a stutter and hidden anger issues due to constant teasing and excessive sheltering by his mother, Helen (Kathy Bates). He became the water boy for the (fictional) University of Louisiana Cougars after being told his father died of dehydration in the Sahara while serving in the Peace Corps. However, the players always torment him and the team's head coach, Red Beaulieu (Jerry Reed), eventually fires him for "disrupting" the team's practices (in actuality, the coach had fired Bobby because he's too weak for his team to bully). Bobby then approaches Coach Klein (Henry Winkler) of the South Central Louisiana State University Mud Dogs and asks to work as the team's water boy. Coach Klein has been coach of SCLSU for years without success. It is revealed later in the movie that he and Beaulieu were assistant coaches at the University of Louisiana, but Beaulieu bullied Klein into letting him take sole credit for a playbook (that Klein actually came up with on his own) to earn the head coach job and then immediately fired Klein. The experience drove Klein to a mental breakdown and rendered him unable to come up with new plays. Furthermore, unlike the Cougars, the Mud Dogs are a struggling team both on and off the field. They have lost 40 consecutive games, their cheerleaders have become alcohol dependent, and players are forced to share equipment. Bobby insists he be the waterboy after seeing a keg of heavily polluted water that coach Klein had been offering his players. Klein, despite being impressed with a sample of Bobby's water, tells him he cannot hire anybody due to the team's financial issues, but Bobby agrees to work for free.
In the last game of the American Football Federation between the Boston Rebels and the New York Dukes, Rebels quarterback Joe Kingman (Dwayne Johnson) scores a touchdown after ignoring an open wide receiver, Travis Sanders (Morris Chestnut). The next morning, an 8-year-old girl named Peyton Kelly (Madison Pettis) arrives on Kingman's doorstep saying that she is his biological daughter, and that his divorced wife sent her there to meet him. Kingman's agent, Stella Peck (Kyra Sedgwick), thinks this will be bad for his image and distracts him with the upcoming playoffs.
In 1971, at the desegregated T. C. Williams High School, a black head coach Herman Boone (Washington) is hired to lead the school's football team. Boone takes over from the current coach Bill Yoast (Patton), nominated for the Virginia High School Hall of Fame. As a show of respect, Boone offers an assistant coordinator coaching position to Yoast. Yoast at first refuses Boone's offer, but reconsiders after the white players pledge to boycott the team if he does not participate. Dismayed at the prospect of the students losing their chances at scholarships, Yoast changes his mind and takes up the position of defensive coordinator.
The Miami Sharks, a once-great American football team, are now in turmoil and struggling to make the 2001 Associated Football Franchises of America (AFFA) playoffs. They are coached by 30-year veteran Tony D'Amato (Al Pacino), who has fallen out of favor with young owner Christina Pagniacci (Cameron Diaz), who inherited the team, and offensive coordinator Nick Crozier (Aaron Eckhart), who is expected to succeed D'Amato as head coach.
Joe Pendleton (Warren Beatty), a backup quarterback for the American football team Los Angeles Rams, is looking forward to leading his team to the Super Bowl. While riding his bicycle through the Mulholland Drive tunnel under Sepulveda Boulevard in Los Angeles, he collides with a truck. An over-anxious guardian angel (Buck Henry) on his first assignment plucks Joe out of his body early, in the mistaken belief that his death is imminent, and Pendleton arrives in the afterlife.
Set in 1951 in South Korea, the 4077th Mobile Army Surgical Hospital is assigned two replacements: Captains "Hawkeye" Pierce and "Duke" Forrest, who arrive in a stolen Jeep. They are insubordinate, womanizing, mischievous rule-breakers but they soon prove to be excellent combat surgeons. They immediately clash with their new tent mate Frank Burns, who is both a religious man and an inferior, stubborn, inept and incompetent surgeon who, when he causes mistakes, selfishly accuses anyone that is aside him. Hawkeye and Duke pressure Lt. Colonel Henry Blake, the unit CO, to have Burns removed from "their" tent. They also ask him to apply for a specialist thoracic surgeon to be assigned to the 4077th. Their wish is granted when Captain "Trapper" John McIntyre arrives at the 4077th.
Bissinger followed the team for the entire 1988 season. However, the book also deals with — or alludes to — a number of secondary political and social issues existing in Odessa, all of which share ties to the Permian Panthers football team. These include socioeconomic disparity; racism; segregation (and desegregation); and poverty.
During halftime of a live-televised professional football game, L.A. Stallions star running back Billy Cole (Billy Blanks) receives a phone call from someone named Milo (Taylor Negron), warning him to win the game at all costs, or "he's history". Cole ingests PCP and, in a drug-induced rage, brings a gun onto the field, shooting three opposing players to make it to the end zone. Cole then shoots himself in the head.
During the 1970s decade, chaos reigns in the city of Philadelphia as southern portions of the city protest the shutdown of several job sites while their NFL team, the Philadelphia Eagles, endures a string of losing seasons plus irate fans.
Jonathan "Mox" Moxon (James Van Der Beek) is an intelligent and academically gifted backup quarterback for the West Canaan High School football team. Despite his relative popularity at school, easy friendships with other players, and smart and sassy girlfriend Jules Harbor (Amy Smart), Mox is dissatisfied with his life. He wants to leave Texas to go to school at Brown University. He is constantly at odds with his football-obsessed father (Thomas F. Duffy) and dreads playing it under legendary coach Bud Kilmer (Jon Voight), a verbally abusive, controlling authority who believes in winning "at all costs". He has a strong track record as coach, remarking in a speech that "in my thirty years of coaching at West Canaan, I have brought two state titles, and 22 district championships!" His philosophy finally takes its toll on Coyotes' quarterback, Lance Harbor (Paul Walker), Mox's best friend and Jules' brother. Lance is manipulated into taking anesthetic shots into an injured knee that finally succumbs to failure and results in even greater injury during gameplay. He is rushed to the hospital, where doctors are appalled at the massive amount of scar tissue found under his knee.
James Robert "Radio" Kennedy, a 18-year-old man with mental disabilities, pushes a shopping cart along the streets daily. He is attracted to a high school football team and often passes by their practices. One day, a football flies outside the field and lands near Radio. Radio takes the ball, deaf to the demands to return it by a student athlete on the other side of the fence. Sometime later, the team members tie up Radio and lock him inside the gear shed. The team's coach, Harold Jones, hears the team members throw balls at the shed and goes to comfort Radio. Upon meeting Radio on the streets another day, Coach Jones asks Radio to visit and help at training. Coach Jones returns Radio to his home, where he meets Radio's mother. It is revealed that Radio has a brother named Walter, who does not live with them, and that their father died a few years prior.