In the small town of Anderson, South Carolina, high school football is more than just an extracurricular fall activity. It's the subject of intense discussion among the town folk and an indicator of the community's standing among its rivals.
As passionate about the game as the fans, Head has taken his job seriously for many years. This fall is no different as he sets up training camp for the new season's crop of pigskin players. He knows he'll have to account for his squad's success, or lack of it, at the post game analysis held by the old guys in the barbershop.
But despite his zeal, his attention is drawn to a mentally challenged teen who daily pushes a shopping cart along the sidewalk outside the fenced field.
After a few of his players rough up the innocent victim, Coach Jones entices the man into the school with the promise of food and tries to find out his name. Finally frustrated with the effort, the coach and his assistant assign their slightly hunched guest the moniker of "Radio" (Cuba Gooding Jr.) and give him a post on their staff.
However, not everyone in the community is excited about Radio. Concerned by his exuberant outbursts on the sidelines, Frank Clay (Chris Mulkey), the local banker, worries about the image the players and particularly his star athlete son (Riley Smith) may get from having the new "assistant" on the team. The T.L. Hanna High School principal (Alfre Woodard) also has her apprehensions about student safety and control when Coach Jones invites Radio into his classroom.
Refusing to give in to the naysayers or the intimidation of the school board, Coach Jones continues to reach out to the young man and his widowed mother despite the initial strain it puts on his own family relations with his wife (Debra Winger) and teenaged daughter (Sarah Drew).
After light-hearted performances as a Miami dentist in Snow Dogs and a debt-laden advertising executive in The Fighting Temptations, Cuba Gooding Jr.'s performance in Radio deserves kudos for giving us a character with depth and spirit. Gooding's portrayal is based on the real life James Robert Kennedy, who has spent the last 38 years with the Hanna Yellow Jackets.
While cursing during a tense game and a few other selective profanities are the extent of penalty calls against this film, the positive changes among the locals will give families plenty of discussion starters about discrimination. With his own community standing on the line, Coach Jones leads this little southern town in overcoming their fear of the unknown and gives credit to a man, who with a little help from his friends, finds dignity and meaning in his life.