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Anticipated New Series is a Real-Life ‘Friday Night Lights’ — With A Whole Lot of Faith

Producer Aaron Benward describes how the inspiring Christian docuseries overcame Hollywood hurdles

As depicted in the film and the beloved TV series Friday Night Lights, high school football in the South is an all-consuming passion that becomes the chief focus of many communities. You’ll never forget the feel of sitting on cool aluminum bleachers on a balmy autumn evening as the marching band strikes up and the young football players burst onto the field, shining with hope and a contagious excitement. It was that feeling of camaraderie, thrill of the win and the often-faith-filled stories of the players, coaches, parents, fans and friends inspired Aaron Benward — a Christian singer and half of the duo Aaron Jeoffrey, and the CMA Award nominated act, Blue County — to produce the new Amazon series, God. Family. Football.

“It’s the story of my hero,” Benward tells Woman’s World of the show that premiers September 1, on Amazon Freevee.  “It’s an unscripted docuseries following Denny Duron, who founded the football program at a little school in Shreveport called Evangel Christian Academy back in 1989.” Evangel has gone on to win 14 State Championships, National Championships, Gatorade Player of the Years, [produce] NFL players, all out of a little 300-member high school.

The show is set against the dramatic backdrop of the 2022 Louisiana high school football season and follows the dynamic relationships between the players, Coach Duron and their families as they try to turn a losing season around and make a bid for the state title.

Here, we learn more about the series and how it’s bringing the best parts of faith, family, and of course football, into the living rooms of millions.

Denny Duron
Coach Denny DuronAmazon

Two clear calls from God

Benward met Coach Duron when he was only 12 years old, and the man made a lifelong impression. Duron was a pastor in Louisiana and Aaron’s father, Jeoffrey Benward, nearly took a job working in ministry with Duron at First Assembly of God in Shreveport.

“Instead, my dad signed a record deal in Nashville with ForeFront Records, so we moved to Nashville, but when I met Denny, he made the biggest impression of anybody I’ve ever met in my life and still to this day is my biggest mentor and hero,” Benward recalls.

“In 2020, we were catching up on the phone,” recalls Benward. “He was retired and enjoying his grandbabies. He started talking about the football team and said, ‘For the first time in our history, we haven’t won a game yet and we’re three games in.’”

Benward was shocked. Evangel had long been the most accomplished team in the area. When he asked Duron what he planned to do, he informed him that he was coming out of retirement. When Benward asked when? Duron responded, “Tomorrow.”

'God. Family. Football.' still
Evangel Christian Academy playersAmazon

Even though the season was already well underway, Duron was anxious to get back on the field. “Denny said, ‘We’ve lost the culture and I believe God wants me to step back in,’” Benward recalls.  “So, I had knew what I wanted to do right then. I felt like God gave me an idea to follow Denny and tell the story of my hero in real time and so we did. We went down there to shoot what is now God. Family. Football. on Amazon.”

How God. Family. Football. took down Hollywood hurdles

Benward put together what in the industry is called a “sizzle reel” to give the network a look at what the series could be. Three networks were interested, and he went with Amazon. “Since 18, I’ve been going off gut instinct and creating things whether it was songs, records or whatever, Benward says. “This is really the first time in my career that I felt in my gut that we had something special. You can’t write better stories than the stories of these kids and coaches and, of course, Denny.”

Benward admits a real-life series on a high school football coach and his team, especially one that centered on God and family, wasn’t exactly what Hollywood was looking for. “Agencies send out pitch sheets on what the networks are looking for and none that I’ve read over the years have ever said, ‘Looking for a faith-based high school football documentary,’” Benward says with a laugh. “So it was an incredibly hard sell, however, when networks started seeing Denny, they said, ‘Man, he’s a star. He’s powerful, dynamic, inspirational, just magnetic.’ He always has been.”

Players praying with Coach DuronAmazon

“That’s why Denny’s so influential, and then they started seeing the boys on the team, the culture and the school, and the fact that it’s a private school that isn’t wealthy,” Benward adds. “It’s powerful and whether you are a Christian or not, whether you are a believer or not, it’s a culture that champions people, that puts God first, family second, football third.”

Benward felt the title of the show, often a favorite phrase on t-shirts and bumper stickers, summed up what Duron stood for, and how he influenced the people in his life. “That’s why I’m so excited is because I get to tell the world about one of the greatest human beings that I’ve ever met. He’s so encouraging. When you leave him, you feel better about who you are.”

God. Family. Football is love at it’s core

When asked if he thinks the series will appeal to other regions of the country, Benward responds, “I do. Stories are based upon conflicts and relationships. That’s what is in every great TV show, every great novel, every great movie you watch or every great story in the Bible. That’s God. Family. Football.

Benward continues, “We have incredible relationships both between teammates on the team to family members and their kids to coaches and the players, but we also have conflicts. It’s not a perfect culture. It’s not a perfect world, however, we show how they operate within the brokenness and that’s the thing that I think will resonate with people everywhere. We’ve tested this with very diverse audiences and people loved it. This is Friday Night Lights in real life and that’s what we captured.”

Women are also very much a part of God. Family. Football. “There’s a ton of single moms at the school and we feature them and their backstories,” Benward says. “The quarterback and his brother are twins and their mom, Sarah, is a single mom, their dad was the quarterback back in 1991 who put Evangel on the map when they won the first State championship. Her relationship to these boys and that whole dynamic with their father is a heart-tugging storyline.”

Learn more about Aaron Benward

Though Benward has become a successful film/TV producer with multiple credits including the 2021 comedy Playing God, now airing on Hulu, he will always have a passion for music. While performing with his dad as Aaron Jeoffrey, they recorded three albums and scored 10 No. 1 Christian music hits.

His debut solo album, Imagine, spawned the No. 1 single “Captured,” and when he teamed with Reeves to form Blue County, they charted such country hits as “Good Little Girls” and “That’s Cool,” and were nominated for Country Duo of the Year three times by both the Country Music Association and the Academy of Country Music.

Aaron Benward Headshot
Aaron Benward

These days, Benward keeps his hand in the music biz. He produces and publishes a new duo, Neon Union, on Red Street Records. He also continues to perform regularly by taking a little bit of Music City to Sin City. “I created a show that’s been 14 years running in Las Vegas called ‘Nashville Unplugged: The Story Behind The Song,’” he says.  “It’s songwriters performing in the round like they do at Nashville’s Bluebird Café. I host and produce the show every Friday night in Mandalay Bay. We celebrated our 14th anniversary a few weeks ago. 

Continuing to play music while also developing TV and film projects keeps Benward busy, and he loves every minute of it, but he admits God. Family. Football. is a special project. “This is like a dream that I get to do this,” he says with a smile. “We’re already working on the second season!”

We can’t wait to watch!

For more stories on inspirational people, read below!

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Deborah Evans Price believes everyone has a story to tell and, as a journalist, she considers it a privilege to share those stories with the world. Deborah contributes to Billboard, CMA Close Up, Jesus Calling, First for Women, Woman’s World and Country Top 40 with Fitz, among other media outlets. Author of the CMA Awards Vault and Country Faith, Deborah is the 2013 winner of the Country Music Association’s Media Achievement Award and the 2022 recipient of the Cindy Walker Humanitarian Award from the Academy of Western Artists. Deborah lives on a hill outside Nashville with her husband, Gary, son Trey and cat Toby.

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