Coach Jones (played by Ed Harris)
Coach Jones is a leader, seasoned educator and sports coach at Hanna High. He has a family consisting of a wife and teenage daughter. He is well respected in the community for his professional opinion and expertise in sports. In the past, no one questioned Coach Jones' judgement, until now.
Radio (played by Cuba Gooding Jr.)
Radio is a teenage boy with special education needs. At present, he does not attend highschool as his age appropriate peers do. He is fully grown. He appears to be shy, and most often keeps to himself. He can communicate using basic language but cannot read or write. Prior to meeting Coach Jones, he is never shown with peers, or interacting with other people besides his mother. Radio also plays the role of a leader but in a different respect as compared to Coach Jones.
Mrs. Linda Jones (played by Debra Winger)
Mrs. Jones plays the traditionally historical role of the happy housemaker. She is always available to cater to the needs of Coach Jones when he arrives home from practice or other outings. She is shown completing various domestic activities such as cooking, and sewing. She is the primary careprovider for their teenage daughter. Mrs. Jones supports the activities of Coach Jones, but from time to time can be the voice of reason.
Principal Daniels is the Principal of Hanna Highschool. She is a middle age black woman in the southern states. The fact that she is a racial minority and female in this position is unique to the area of the United States and the time period the movie was framed in. Principal Daniels is level headed. She takes her position very seriously. She has a well established relationship with Coach Jones. Mrs. Daniels is initially somewhat fearful of the presence of students with special educational needs in the school. Principal Daniels plays the leadership role as the head of the highschool.
Honeycutt is Coach Jones' coaching partner. Together, they run the athletics department of Hanna High. Honeycutt is the assistant coach of the football team, and the head coach of the basketball team. Honeycutt has a mild manner about him, and respects Coach Jones' judgement. He frequently carries out the requests of Coach Jones without question. Although Honeycutt is not the head of the athletic department, he plays a leadership role in that students look up to him in the coaching realm he fulfills throughout the storyline.
Frank Clay is the Bank Manager of the bank in Anderson. He is also the father of Johnny Clay, star athlete of Hanna High. Frank is shown mostly throughout the movie as a spectator at the sporting events held by the school. He can be opinionated in questioning the coaching decisions of Coach Jones and Honeycutt during and after sporting events at Hanna Highschool. Frank holds a prestigious position in the community as Bank Manager. This position is associated with the management of money, which relates to prestige and power. He is revered by many folk of the community as they would have to approach him with personal requests for money throughout their lifetimes. Therefore, any relationship with Frank must stay positive or his connection with money at the bank could come back and haunt an individual for a long time.
Mary Helen is the daughter of Coach Jones. She is a typical teenage girl who also is a cheerleader for Hanna High. She seems well adjusted, and is an only child. She has some friends and is social with them. She does not have a great relationship with her father. She rarely sees him, and he is not in touch with what is happening in her life. Despite the fact that Mary Helen is a cheerleader at the same sporting events that her father coaches at, she does not spend much time with him. Her role in the plot of the story is to show that even though Coach Jones is reknown for his contributions to Hanna High, he has one area of his life that is not perfect; his relationship with his daughter.
Mrs. Kennedy is Radio's mother. She is a black, middle aged widow working many hours as a nurse to support Radio and herself. She lives in a small, run down area of the community. Mrs. Kennedy toils in life to make ends meet. She is compassionate towards Radio because of his condition, and does much to protect him. She shows appreciation for Coach Jones' interest in Radio as being sincere and well meaning.
Johnny Clay is the highschool jock or sports allstar. He has a cocky attitude that depicts a sense of entitlement. He is the leader of the football and basketball teams. His fellow team members look up to him for leadership and example. They follow him. He is attempting to impress sports scouts throughout the film to earn himself a scholarship to a good university. He is ruthless to achieve his own goals. He mistreats Radio throughout the movie.