It was only a 20-second film clip on the nightly news, tucked in between the NBA scores and the daily-double payoff, but when Jerry McNeely, saw it he knew, immediately, "there's a story there."

McNeely, a veteran screenwriter , director and producer, also knew he had been moved by what he had just seen - the acceptance speech John Cappelletti made that night in 1973 when he received the heisman Trophy.

Cappelleti, a Penn State senior then and a Los Angeles Ram running back now, told an audience that included Gerald Ford about his brother, Joey, a victim of leukemia.

"If I could dedicate this trophy to him, if it could buy him one day of happiness, it would all be worthwhile," Cappelletti said. "Joey lives with pain all the time. His courage is around the clock.

McNeely was right. There was a story there, and it's on television tonight.

Cynics will say this is another attempt to exploit death and suffering for the sake of Neilsen ratings; a movie in the genre of "Brian's Song and Death Be Not Proud."

"I don't believe we're exploiting anyone," said McNeely. "This is simply the story of a very beautiful American family and how they cope with an agonizing situation. I was at a screening with the family, a few weeks ago. They appeared what we had done. They were thrilled by it. It's something we're all terribly proud of."

And yet the critics surely will recoil at some of the formula made-in-Hollywood scenes that seem too good to be true.

At one point, Joey, still recovering from a near-fatal bout with chickenpox, comes up to bat in a Little League game in the last inning with the bases loaded and his team trailing by a run. Of course, he gets the game winning hit.

"But all of this actually happened." said McNeely. "I know people are going to say, 'Aah, they made it up.' But it's true."

"Joey's illness was diagnosed when he was 5, and for nine years that child lived with a lot of pain and frustration. The family at times felt they'd done the wrong thing, made the wrong decision to put him through all the therapy.

"But that night, when John gave his brother that trophy, I really do think they knew it had all been worth it."

The film's last frame is a freeze shot of John embracing his little brother as the narrator delivers a final message.

"Joey died on April 8, 1976. John was at his side."