Gerry Bertier: The true story behind his paralysis & ‘Remember the Titans’

Gerry Bertier: The true story behind his paralysis & ‘Remember the Titans’

Gerry Bertier was an American football star and Paralympian. He gained notoriety for participating in the 1971 Virginia State Champion football T.C. Williams High School team. The sportsman is the inspiration behind the character portrayed by Ryan Hurst in the movie Remember the Titans, who dies at 27 after making positive changes as the team’s captain. So, what happened to Gerry Bertier, and is Remember the Titans a true story?

Ryan Hurst as Gerry Bertier during a scene from the 2000 film Remember The Titans
Ryan Hurst as Gerry Bertier during a scene from the 2000 film Remember The Titans. Photo: Buena Vista
Source: UGC


Written by Gregory Allen Howard, Remember the Titans is a 2000 sports comedy-drama film that narrates how sports and empathy transformed a racially discriminating town into a true community. With a budget of $30 million, it grossed an estimated $136.8 million worldwide. It is often listed among the best football films of all time.

Gerry Bertier’s profile summary

Full nameGerry Bertier
Date of birth 20 August 1953
Date of death20 March 1981
Age at death27 years old
BirthplaceCharlottesville, Virginia, USA
Alma materT.C. Williams High School
Hair colourBrown
Eye colourBrown
ProfessionAmerican football player

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Who was Gerry Bertier?

Gerry Bertier (aged 27 at his death) was born on 20 August 1953 in Charlottesville, Virginia, USA. After his parents’ divorce, his mother primarily raised him until she remarried Robert Agnew.

Gerry Bertier
Ryan Hurst, who portrayed Gerry Bertier in Remember the Titans at the German Comic Con in 2019. Photo: Susannah V. Vergau
Source: Original

Growing up, Bertier participated in various athletics to fulfil his lifetime goal of winning a gold medal in the Olympics.

Is Remember the Titans based on a true story?

As documented by the Northern Virginia Magazine, Remember the Titans is centred around actual life events that happen in the life of Gerry Bertier. In the summer of 1971, head coach Bill Yoast (Will Patton) engages in summer workouts with his T. C. Williams High School white players.

However, he is soon replaced by a black head coach, Herman Boone (Denzel Wahington), becoming his assistant. Early on, the team’s white and black members frequently clash due to racial-motivated conflicts spearheaded by captains Julius Campbell (black) and Gerry Bertier (white).

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However, an inspirational speech by Herman challenges the team to work together towards a common goal: winning the championship. While Remember the Titans is based on a true story, the show’s producers may have made a few adjustments in an attempt to tell a compelling story.

Therefore, some parts of the movie are entirely fictional. For instance, the real-life Titans may not have faced the same overt racism depicted in the film, but this reflected the discrimination and hate black people faced in the U.S. at the time.

Will Patton and Denzel Washington running out onto the field in a scene from Remember The Titans in 2000
Will Patton and Denzel Washington during a scene from Remember The Titans in 2000. Photo: Buena Vista
Source: UGC

How good of a football player was Gerry Bertier?

The Virginia native was widely recognised for his pitch prowess and leadership skills. Below are some of his accolades:

  • National Prep School Player of the Year (1971)
  • T.C. Williams Defensive Player of the Year (1971
  • Frist-team All-State (1971)
  • T.C. Williams Athletic Hall of Fame
  • T.C. Williams No. 42 retired

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Were Gerry Bertier and Julius Campbell friends?

According to Fandom, Julius Campbell, played by actor Wood Harris, was Gerry’s best friend. The duo shared a close friendship, not less than that of brothers.

In the movie, after Bertier's first accident, Campbell visits him in the hospital, and the two reminisce about how far they have come. The latter then shared encouraging words with his ailing teammate, saying:

You and I will move to the same neighbourhood together when all this is over. We will get old and fat, and this black-and-white will not be between us.

Who was Gerry Bertier's girlfriend?

Even though most characters in Remember the Titans are based on real-life people, Gerry’s partner is not an actual person.

The real-life Gerry Bertier posing for a photo (L). Denzel Washington and his Remember The Titans team (R)
The real-life Gerry Bertier posing for a photo (L). Denzel Washington and his Remember The Titans team (R). Photo: @JakeLove2018 on Twitter, Getty Images (modified by author)
Source: UGC

Emma Hoyt, portrayed by actress Kate Bosworth, is a fictional character meant to bring the movie’s storyline to life. The player’s real girlfriend was purportedly called Becky.

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Did Ronnie Bass kiss Bertier?

In Remember the Titans, Ronnie Bass, aka Sunshine, jokingly kisses his captain on the lips. However, this did not happen in real life.

The movie also implies Bass might be gay, which is also untrue. As quoted in the Greenville News, Ronnie denies being the long-haired hippie the show depicts him to be.

I was never quite like that, but that is Hollywood. My hair was never that long.

What happened to Gerry Bertier in real life?

Just like it is portrayed in Remember the Titans, Gerry’s life took a jarring turn on 11 December 1971. After attending a banquet to celebrate his team’s undefeated season, he borrows his mother’s car but gets into a tragic accident.

Although medics tried to relieve pressure on his spine, Bertier became paralysed from the waist down. However, he continued his sporting career, setting state and national records in the Wheelchair Basketball League and the United States Paralympics.

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Will Patton talking to Denzel Washington in a scene from the 2000 film Remember The Titans
Will Patton talking to Denzel Washington in a scene from the 2000 film Remember The Titans. Photo: Buena Vista
Source: UGC

How did Gerry Bertier die?

The sportsman was critically injured in a car accident while returning home from a business trip on 20 March 1981.

He later succumbed to injuries while receiving treatment at the University of Virginia hospital. In connection to the accident, a man from Schyler was charged with driving under the influence of alcohol.

Gerry Bertier’s changed after he was involved in an automobile accident that left half of his body paralysis. While this greatly affected his career, the sportsman began participating in the Paralympics. Sadly, he was involved in a second car crash that took away his life this time. Bertier’s life is depicted in the biographical film Remember the Titans.

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While it features Zendeya and Hunter Schafer as the lead actors, some other notable names expected to appear in season 3 include Jacob Elordi, Alexa Demi, Algee Smith, and Sydney Sweeney, among many others.

Source: Briefly News

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Ruth Gitonga (Lifestyle writer) Ruth Gitonga has a background experience in Mass Communication for over six years. She graduated from the University of Nairobi with a degree in Mass Communication in December 2014. In 2023, Ruth finished the AFP course on Digital Investigation Techniques. She has worked for for five years now. She specializes in topics like lifestyle, entertainment, travel, technology, and sports. Email:

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