At 59, it's that old college try
Sul Ross player goes 37 years between games
ALPINE, Texas - Mike Flynt is a very senior linebacker - a real upperclassman.
Thirty seven years ago, back when Richard Nixon was president, Flynt was a junior footballer at tiny Sul Ross State University with a nose for fighting and a hard head.
After one scuffle too many, he got booted from the team he loved, a fall from grace that became one of his life's great regrets.
So when Flynt, 59, was reminiscing over some beers at a class reunion a few months ago, and a pal said that maybe he could get his last season of playing eligibility back, it wasn't a punch line to the AARP member - it was an eureka moment.
On Saturday night, Flynt capped a personal fairy-tale of second chances and redemption when he returned to the gridiron as his aging ex-teammates, his grown children and his grandson cheered him on.
Flynt's first round hadn't ended so well:
Way back in the day, Flynt was a pretty good player - but not such a good person. He was on the first state championship team at Odessa Permian, the Texas high school immortalized in the book "Friday Night Lights." After bouncing around junior college, he wound up at Sul Ross State, which at the time competed in the tougher NAIA division (it is now a division III school).
Flynt was an emotional leader on the 1969 Sul Ross team that scored the only win that season against Texas A&I, which won two consecutive national championships. But a brawl in the dorms prior to the start of the 1971 season - which by Flynt's admission came after more than a dozen other scraps - ended his playing career.
But there is redemption...
Flynt stayed in sports, working as a strength coach at Texas A&M, Oregon and Nebraska. He embraced the Christian life, thanks to his wife Eileen - with whom he's raised three children in their more than 35 years of marriage. But he never got over the feeling that he'd let his own football dreams slip away.
During this year's class reunion, he said he confided in his former teammates, "Do you know how many times I cried over that? The funny thing is, I still feel like I can play." One told him he should try. Soon, Flynt was begging for a final shot at football glory.
Former teammate Wilson warned him that he might get his rear end kicked. His wife thought he was kidding. When they figured out he was sincere, they got behind him.
"I was frustrated with him one day and said, I feel like I'm married to Peter Pan!" Eileen Flynt said. "But I realized how much it meant to him. And I knew that if something meant that much to me, he'd support me all the way."
Flynt is working toward a master's degree and enrolled in classes in management and the history of sports.
Isn't that great? Now, what can I go back and redo...?
Full story here.
(Oh, and The Papa says he might try that too, but he wants to say he could take more grandchildren to the games.)