The film is an adaptation of a book by the same name that tells the story of an athlete who becomes a decent human being with the help of those around him as he tries to recover from an accident. Nolte plays a mysterious life-coach type character that points the young man away from arrogance and self-pity to what can be considered enlightenment.
This struck me as one of those slow-burner films that can sometimes surprise in the face of blockbusters at the box office. The film avoids being too mawkish whilst still having a bit of a feel good element to it. Readers of the book may chafe at the simplification of the story, but thats Hollywood for you.