From the gridiron to the bright lights of Hollywood.
Former Ottumwa High standout football player Tanner Varner, who now plays for the San Jose Sabercats Arena football team; made his acting debut in “The Dark Knight Rises,” the final movie in the Christopher Nolan-directed Batman trilogy.
Appropriately, Varner played the role of a football player. The 2002 Ottumwa graduate plays a football player for the visiting Rapid City Monuments in their game against the Gotham Rogues. The game is filmed at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh and features cameo roles by several members of the Pittsburgh Steelers, including Ben Roethlisberger, Mike Wallace and Troy Polamalu. Former Pittsburgh coach Bill Cowher and former Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward also appear in the film.
“We got to hang out with a bunch of them [Steelers players] and that was pretty neat,” Varner said.
In the movie scene, during a kickoff return by Ward, the stadium begins blowing up behind him — the explosions were set by the film’s villain, Bane.
The acting role came to Varner because of Pat O’Hara, the head coach the New Orleans’ Voodoo arena football team. Besides his coaching job, O’Hara also casts people for sports movies, Varner said.
“Most football scenes in movies are guys from the Arena Football League,” Varner said.
Though this was Varner’s first rodeo, he said he had a lot of gridiron buddies who played minor roles in the remake of the movie “The Longest Yard,” an Adam Sandler vehicle.
“It’s fun to get in there and say we were in the movies,” Varner said.
Though he doesn’t plan to pursue a movie career any time soon, Varner said he now has a better grasp of what goes into making a movie.
“It’s pretty precise,” he said. “A lot more than I thought goes into it.”
On the football field, Varner’s San Jose Sabercats will take on the Arizona Rattlers in a road game in the first round of the Arena League Playoffs Saturday. The Sabercats (12-6) swept the series, beating Arizona 71-70 in overtime at home and 77-70 in Phoenix.
After an illustrious career at the University of Northern Iowa, where he earned All-American honors, Varner — who plays in the defensive backfield and sometimes at linebacker — said it took a while to adjust to the offensive-minded indoor football league with it’s short 50-yard field and pass-heavy offenses.
“It’s a 95 percent passing game,” Varner said. “It’s a tough quick game, but very exciting for friends and fans.”
Varner, however, said, in the end, it’s still football. The Ottumwa native had one of the best rookie campaigns for a defender in league history in 2010 with the Iowa Barnstormers, earning first team All-Arena honors. He led the team with a league-rookie record 129.5 total tackles, intercepted eight passes, scored twice defensively and forced one fumble. He was acquired by San Jose in a trade with the Kansas City Command before this season.
From the gridiron to the bright lights of Hollywood.
- McDanel, Moravia shuts down Seymour MORAVIA - Stepping in for an ace pitcher with the ability to play at the Division I level, freshman Autumn McDanel stepped right up for the Moravia softball team in their season opener against Bluegrass rival Seymour on Tuesday. Taking over for curre
- Elder stays in park for second slam in Comets win DANVILLE - Two nights and two games into the season, Brennon Elder has had the two biggest hits of the season for the Cardinal baseball team. After drilling a grand slam homer out of Cardinal High School's baseball diamond in their season-opening win
- New-look Pioneers prepare to continue state tennis traditions FAIRFIELD - Names change. Expectations do not for the Fairfield Maharishi boys tennis program. So even in a season that began with the program starting with as big a change as it has gone through in some time, the end result is still the same as it's
Centerville linksters head to state competition
CENTERVILLE -- The Centerville boys golf team made history when it became the first team from the program to qualify for state since 1977. The Big Reds will try to parlay that momentous feat into a successful showing at the Class 3A State Tournament
- On Tap Friday Boys Tennis Class 1A State Singles and Doubles Tournament Fairfield and MSAE at Waterloo, 9 a.m. Boys Golf Class 3A State Tournament Centerville at Ames, 10 a.m. Prep Softball Ottumwa at Mount Pleasant (DH), 6 p.m. Davis County at Moravia (DH), 5:30
Blue Demons big rally stuns Van Buren in eight
To say Gabe Gravert hadn't really gotten into the swing of the baseball season was an understatement.
- Hopkins leads Rockets to win over Lady Dees
- Cardinals slips by Van Buren on the road KEOSAUQUA – Delaney Ridgway threw a five-hit shut out and Cardinal slipped by Van Buren 1-0 Thursday in the SEISC South Conference action. "We played really good defense," Comet softball coach Jerald Harter said. Cardinal Schyler Conger managed to s
- Ottumwa hammers Fort Madison in season-opening doubleheader FORT MADISON — Mandi Moore tossed a one-hitter in the Ottumwa softball team's 10-0 victory over the first half of its season-opening doubleheader Thursday. The Bulldogs, who started the season ranked No. 2 in Class 5A, kept the momentmum rolling in g
- Ottumwa soccer players named to all-league teams The Ottumwa boys soccer team had two players named to the CIML Metro Conference all-league teams this year. Thien Dinh was selected first team all-league and Charlie Altfillisch made second team. In addition, several Bulldogs received honorable menti
- More Sports Headlines