“Born to Lead – The Sal Aunese Story” leads off Boulder International Film Festival

The documentary, “Born to Lead – The Sal Aunese Story” was shown Friday at the Boulder International Film Festival.

The documentary has already won awards. It was included as an Official Selection for the FICTS International Sports Film Festival in Milan, Italy, in November, 2016, and won for Best Documentary Feature Film. On top of that, Lara Slife won Best First Time Director.

If your history with the Buffs does not date back to 1986-90, you really need to see this film, as it is a great – and touching – story.

If you are a Buff fan dating back to that era, this is a “must see” – period.

The director and producer announced after the showing that the documentary will be on a cable network this summer, though they were not yet at liberty to discuss which network or dates of airing. I will post that information here on the website as soon as it is made available. You can also find updates at the Sal Aunese website, salaunese.com.

During the Q&A after the show at the Boulder International Film Festival, two of the principals of the film, wide receivers Jeff Campbell and J.J. Flannigan, spoke.

Some of what they had to say …

Jeff Campbell … “It was the ending of a life, but it was the beginning of a journey for us. It taught me that there is way more fight in your life than you can possibly imagine. I picked up J (J. Flannigan) this morning, and I hadn’t seen him in about two years, and it was like I had seen him yesterday. He started talking garbage about me – automatically – and I felt right at home. I love my teammates. Alfred Williams got up a couple of years ago and said, ‘You guys have saved my life about a hundred times, and I can tell you right now that I feel the exact same way. I know that when things go bad, I can call on a bunch of these guys, and they will be there.

I think one of the saddest moments of my life was when I had to take my uniform off at the Orange Bowl and put it into a bag, knowing that I was not going to be able to put on a CU headgear again, with that jersey, and be out there on that same field, because that was where I was at home. That was home for me, and I miss those guys every day.

J.J. Flannigan … “I often tell people that I was born in Los Angeles, California, but I was raised here in Boulder. There were some tough times, and we went through some tough days. Our escape was that football field. Our escape was each other. I never in my life imagined that, through playing a game, that I would gain friends and brothers that I still communicate with to this day. Sal’s story is being told on the screen here today, but it was people who were here before us. My buddy Mike Marquez, who helped recruit me here, is here today. I don’t know if Mike remembers this, but on my recruiting trip here, back in 1985, he said, ‘You might as well come here, because you guys are going to become stars here’. This is another running back telling me this, telling me to come here. I fell in love with this place on my trip here.

To be a part of such a special story like that of Sal Aunese … You guys get to see this, but I wish you really could have known the man. He was a special man” …

Both Campbell and Flannigan played key roles in two of the biggest wins in the history of the CU football program. Campbell, against Nebraska in 1986, and Flannigan, against Nebraska in 1989, both scored dramatic touchdowns against the Huskers:





3 Replies to ““Sal Aunese – Born to Lead””

  1. Wow, those were the good old days for sure! I get goose bumps every time I watch these clips. Thanks for posting and re-living great days in Boulder. Love it too, both against the Huskers!!!

    1. I was at that game in ’89. WOW! What memories. The crowd chanting JAY, JAY, FLANNIGAN…
      That reverse with Campbell was a play the Buffs used at least once a game, often for big yards. Would love to see that one back in the play book.

  2. Yo Stuart,
    I remember both those plays so well. My years in the student section will be with me forever. Every time I see them it brings me back. I also remember standing outside Macky during Sal’s funeral with so many others who couldn’t get in.

    That emotional ride lasted all the way to playing for the National Championship in the Orange Bowl that season. I cried then knowing in my heart that our Buffs came up short but also understanding that if we had played Notre Dame 10 times that year we would have beaten them nine times.

    Sometimes the gratification of a special year is delayed. In that case, it was only one year against the same team. And it was another year beating the despicable Corn-Holers, who reacted with their typical lack of class by leaving the Buffs off their final coaches poll ballot, and making Colorado split the national championship.

    It was the same disgusting mindset which led so-called fans writing disgusting things on the highway border between Colorado and Nebraska about Sal when he died. I’ll never forgive Osborne an I will never forget those despicable acts.

    Sal led Colorado to the National Championship, even while he was dying. He passed on his commitment and heart to Hagan, and helped the young man grow into one of the all time greats. All Buffs fans should be grateful for that. Go Buffs!


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