Movie Review: Trials to Triumph Scores

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The Sporting Tribune Co-Founder and Chief Technology Officer Chris Mattmann reviews Trials to Triumph, a new documentary on the Safire Network

I wasn’t sure what to expect before watching Trials to Triumph, a new documentary movie produced by and starring former Florida State University national champion and football standout Freddie Stevenson. Stevenson and I had exchanged texts over the last year after I heard him on The Arash Markazi show presented by The Sporting Tribune, and connected with him over social media. He mentioned to me that he would be releasing the first web3 sports documentary and that it would be a sort of biopic about his life and that of those around him. Although in general I really enjoy these types of movies and overall anything related to inspiring sports stories about people overcoming long odds to succeed, I had never heard of Freddie’s story and though I loved that Florida State national championship team won the BCS title and Rose Bowl in 2014 in my backyard, I hadn’t heard much about the players.


After initially purchasing the NFT (“non fungible token” or digital asset representing ownership of a piece of content) required for accessing the site, I was able to log onto the site and gain access to the film. The film is shot in a documentary style, with first person interviews and the interviewer out of the camera frame which is focused on the subject. The movie begins telling us about Freddie’s father, Terris Stevenson, now a Pastor, and his own humble beginnings. As it turns out, when Freddie and his siblings were very young, Freddie’s father went to prison on drug trafficking charges, leaving Freddie’s mother Sylvia alone to raise a budding family. Suffice to say this was extremely difficult for the family who could best be described as living in poverty. The film makes a strong point during the first person interviews of sharing the experience with the audience of just how difficult it was to raise a family of six as a single mother. One poignant scene in the film recalls a time when Sylvia Stevenson took Freddie and his four siblings to McDonald’s for a meal, wanted to purchase a cheeseburger and yet didn’t have enough money and had to beg a stranger for it. After a kind stranger provided the money, Sylvia cut the burger into five pieces so that the children could eat while ignoring her own needs to provide for her children. It’s heartening to see Sylvia Stevenson’s life growth from that moment to seeing her son and what he has accomplished, and also what she has accomplished herself – raising her family, reuniting with her husband now a successful businessman and pastor, to starring in a feature film about her son’s and her family’s triumphs.


The film doesn’t stop at just the story of Freddie’s immediate family and what they overcame. It covers the struggles and lives of Freddie’s teammates from that Florida State team that won the BCS title.  Freddie’s friend, Tony Gaskins, now an accomplished speaker, tells in the film about caring more about his car and 22 inch wheels than he did his first born child and how far he has come through faith and also through his friendship with Freddie and others interview. Those others interviewed  include Devin Breaux, and Ryan Green, who both are struggling with their own demons of alleged abuse growing up, to coming back from a debilitating neck injury, to struggles with partying and lack of focus. Trials to Triumph also makes it a point to hone in on mental health, through related stories and interviews told by Maurice Bernard of General Hospital who has admittedly struggled with mental illness and by some first person interviews with mental health professionals providing advice and input as to what Freddie’s friend circle were dealing with growing up playing collegiate sports and hailing from difficult upbringings. The experts analyze how those situations could have negatively impacted Stevenson’s friends and their mental health.


Besides friends and his immediate family, the interviews lay bare Freddie’s highs and lows going from being a young all everything athlete in pop warner and high school to arriving in college and struggling a bit with his focus and career. The national championship season is covered in the film, as are the aftermath of the national championship and what fame can do to a young athlete. In particular, Stevenson had a short lived NFL career that for the first time in his life made him reflect on football and sports and whether playing football was his destiny as so many had intimated to him and he himself. What’s more, the film dives deep into Stevenson’s rejection of faith due to this and through his exploration and embrace of his own demons which saw Stevenson process his grief by repeating the cycle of his father and becoming a drug trafficker despite knowing better and what it could lead to – prison, like his father. 


As his worst, Freddie is admittedly repeating what happened to his father, and sees himself diving further into the abyss. The ray of light and what culminates the film is the story of Freddie and Dajah Torres his girlfriend and now wife and her role in convincing Freddie not to repeat the cycle in his family. Torres believed that Freddie’s story could be used to motivate others and inspire them. Both Torres and Freddie’s broader family and friends were instrumental in convincing him that drug trafficking was not where his path should lead and instead that there was a post football and sports life in which Freddie’s stories themselves could be the currency. The last part of the film dives deep into the relationship between Torres and Stevenson and its construction over many years and connections including overcoming familial struggles together, and being there for each other. Trials to Triumphs leans into the bond that arises when you go through those struggles together. Ultimately it is Dajah and a law enforcement agent with a heart that convince Freddie to get his act cleaned up and out of the drug business for good. The result, along with some bits of chance and opportunity along the way are that Freddie spends his time now not trafficking drugs, but instead speaking at major events, giving keynote talks, sharing with the community around the US and the world how overcoming trials can ultimately lead to triumphs, trafficking in his experiences and motivational currency.


Built on a basis of family, faith, mental and physical health, and inspiration, Trials to Triumphs is well worth the watch and ultimately I’m hopeful it will lead to a much broader and wider distribution on some of the major streaming networks.

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