Eric "Hoovey" Elliott was a young boy with a very promising basketball career until a potentially fatal illness threatened to take it all.
His story and his miraculous comeback are now the subject of a new movie now called Hoovey. Once again Sean McNamara, director of Soul Surfer, brings a story of triumph to the big screen.
In the film, when 16-year-old "Hoovey" of Normal, Ill., collapses on the basketball court, doctors discover a life-threatening brain tumor that could derail all of his hopes and dreams. After high-risk surgery he must relearn life's fundamentals: walking, reading, even seeing clearly.
Actor Cody Linley plays the title role.
"I always wanted to be in an underdog story and I feel like this is the ultimate underdog sports movie," the 23-year-old actor said.
Linley went on to say that "doing these types of things where I'm walking with a cane, it made me really humble and want to ask a lot of questions and understand his struggle and his way of overcoming it."
A Modern-Day Job
Hoovey's "real life" parents, Jeff and Ruth Elliott, say they could relate well to the biblical story of Job. During the time Hoovey was sick their daughter also got very sick, Ruth lost her job and soon after medical bills threatened to undo everything the couple had worked a lifetime to build. Like in Job, even well-meaning Christian friends accused them of not being "right" with God.
"You must have terrible sin in your life and you're being punished for that," Jeff Elliott recalls "friends" saying to them.
"These were Christian friends that we go to church with that came to us and said you must have some unresolved sin," Ruth added.
With his family's love and tenacity, as well as his relentless determination to get back on the court, Hoovey surprised everyone, even his parents.
"I believed he would make it back. I didn't think he'd make it back to the level that he did," Jeff said.
"I remember looking out the window and thinking what have we inspired him to do," Ruth recalled. "But against all odds (he made a comeback)," she said.
Rebounding from Death's Door
Wanting to inspire others, Jeff wrote a book about his son's amazing comeback called Rebounding From Death's Door. After being rejected by more than 100 publishers, he self-published but didn't sell many copies.
Five years later, Jeff and Ruth got a call out of the blue that someone wanted to make a movie about their story.
"It's pretty amazing how it's all coming together ... so many times it looked like it wasn't going to happen but when I gave up, He took over," Jeff said.
CBN News Anchor Wendy Griffith arrived on the set the day they were filming a dramatic car accident scene. Actor Patrick Warburton, of Seinfeld and Family Guy fame, plays Hoovey's father, firefighter Jeff Elliott.
He said it was inspiring to have Jeff, who is one of the extras, on the set.
"Yeah it was fun. At the end of takes I can go, 'Is that how you would've done it? I did it differently, let's imagine that's how you would do it,'" Warburton joked.
He also said his mother is very happy he's in a faith-based movie for a change.
"She was thrilled. She's part of the contingency that's trying to get 'Family Guy' off the air. How does that work?" he said.
Actress Lauren Holly, a well-known face from movies and television and real life mother of three boys, plays Hoovey's mother, Ruth.
"When I read the script I cried more than once and I really just wanted to be a part of it and now that I've gotten to know Ruth, we're going to be friends forever," Holly said.
The 'Real Life' Hoovey
With God's help and his family's love, the real life Hoovey learned to read again, dribble, and not only play basketball again, but went on to receive a scholarship to play college ball, where he scored 30 points and a winning shot in a regional game.
"I realized I was so close to not having this life and every day is a gift from God. You really need to cherish it, just love on your wife, love on your kids, that's what I'm trying to do," the real Eric "Hoovey" Elliot said.
Hoovey, a story of faith, love, and a family's resolve to trust God and not give up comes to theaters sometime next year.