The movie starts with an evening at the juvenile detention center. The teenagers are all sleeping in a big room without restraints and there is a small cubicle right in the center, with a supervisor sitting in it. The supervisor is Malcolm Moore (Xzibit), and he is doing his business when a kid named Roger wraps his fist in a towel and gets up and starts throwing punches at the kid sleeping next to him. Roger is immediately taken to another building were they lock the kids up due to misbehaviors.
Next we see Sean Porter (The Rock) walk into Roger’s cell and start beating Roger with a rolled up magazine. Roger pleads that the guy he beat up was disrespecting his gang. Sean gives him a lecture and tells him that he will only end up dead out on the street once he gets out if he stays this way. Roger cools down, and seems to understand what Sean is telling him and he promises to be good.
Next we see Roger back on the street, walking with his cousin Willie Weathers (Jade Yorker). Willie has his girlfriend Danyelle by his side as they are approached by two teenagers of their gang. The two kids inform Willie and Roger that one of their gang mates is killed and they are going for revenge. Roger insists that he stays out of it as Willie keeps pushing the gun into his hands. At this point, Danyelle is furious at such a crazy act that she walks away. Just when the four teenagers are heading towards the other gang’s territory, a car drives by and starts to shoot at the kids. The kids all start to run as the car chases behind them. There is a fence, and Willie climbs over it with ease but Roger is too late and is run over by the car and dies instantly. Willie cries and we see police and Roger’s mother at the scene later crying as well.
While Willie is crying, his gang mates approaches him and ask that Willie gets revenge for his cousin. Free (Omari Hardwick) hands Willie a gun and tells him where to find the person behind this. Willie walks towards a grocery store and sees the target with his family; Willie pulls out the gun, gets startled by the clerk, and shoots into the ceiling as he runs home.
Back home, Willie’s little brother is chilling on the couch watching TV, and when Willie’s mother comes in, Willie sees that she has black eyes and bruises all over her. Willie tells his mom to leave the man and stop letting him do that to her. She tells Willie to keep it down as a man was awakened and starts to yell. The man gets physical with Willie because Willie did not back down from him, and when Willie is pushed to the floor, he pulls out a gun and shoots the man dead. The mother cries and police come and arrested Willie.
Back at the juvie, Malcolm tells the bad news to Sean about the death of Roger. Sean is furious, knowing that he could do very little for kids out there. Sean figures he needs a new method to help these kids from getting killed like this on the street. Sean visits his sick mother in the hospital and they talk about how much he used to love football. So Sean decides to install football into their correction center program, and is granted the permission by his supervisors.
He picks out a few kids in the room that he feels will benefit from this program and requires that they practice with him tomorrow. The next day Sean explains his rules about being on the football field. They will obey all orders and they will have to learn to like one another, even if they are from a different gang. Willie and Kelvin (David Thomas) cannot get along, both their gangs killed each other’s loved ones. They never really fight except give each other the stare. The kids practice daily under really hot sun and some quit but decide to join again, and this is where Sean forms a bond with the kids.
Sean and Malcolm travel around town to look for teams to play against. Not many schools are willing to have their students play against criminals, so it is really difficult to start with. Then Sean finds a league that is willing to accept the kids to play, and Sean takes out funds from the program to get his kids equipment and gear and names them the Mustangs.
The first game is against the best team in the league, as the Mustangs are trashed by almost 40 points. During the game, Sean keeps on yelling at his kids, making them feel small and useless. Sean realizes that he has not only lost the game, but he lost the trust of the kids. Sean goes to visit his mother and tells her about how he sounded just like his father used to be. The mother gives him some guidance and Sean goes back and apologizes to his kids.
Sean gets the kids’ trust again, as each day the kids start to have a better relationship with each other, except for Willie and Kelvin. The Mustangs start to win games as well as they play together and work together. Kelvin and Willie shake each other’s hands when they won one game by one touchdown after Kelvin takes a big block for Willie.
Towards the end of the season, the Mustangs are going into the playoffs. They are getting more publicity and more fans and families along the way. Even Willie’s gang mate, Free is in the crowd. Free flashed some gang signs as Kelvin, who is the rival gang member, and they vow to kill each other. After one game, as the players and family’s walk onto the field, Free intentionally bumps into Kelvin. When Kelvin pushes back, Free shoots Kelvin, hitting his shoulder. When Free is going to put another in Kelvin’s head, Willie runs toward Free and knocks him over. Free is stunned, but the police arrived and Free takes off, only to be shot dead by the police when he shoots at them first.
Kelvin would be alright, but he will not be able to play in the finals. Sean’s mother passes away and the kids say that they will dedicate this game to Sean’s mother.
The Mustangs will now face the team that beat them by 40 points in the beginning. This time, even though the Mustangs are a different team, they are still intimidated. During halftime, while the Mustangs are trailing, Sean and Malcolm hide in a room, allowing the kids to sort themselves out in the locker room. The kids pumped each other up and come out a different team. They beat the team and celebrates.
A couple months later, we see fresh faces on the team, and Sean is finally officially granted his football method into the program.
All the kids that were on the Mustangs are now somewhere doing the right things. Willie is playing football for college, some are attending great schools, some are working hard, and only one was killed.
During the credits, we see real footage of Sean Porter and his lectures and his program.
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