Monday, February 02, 2009

Believing, and Playing College Football at 59

On Sunday, February 1, 2009, on his Hour of Power religious broadcast, Rev. Robert H. Schuller interviewed Mike Flynt, the author of "The Senior" (207 pages; Oct, 2008), which conveys the message: "It's Never Too Late to Tackle Your Dreams!"

Mike Flynt was swapping stories with some old football buddies when he brought up the biggest regret of his life: getting kicked off the college team before his senior year.

So, one of his pals said, "Why not do something about it?"

Most 59-year-olds would have laughed. Flynt's only concern was his eligibility.

He not only returned to college football, but actually made the team at his alma mater -- Sul Ross State, an NCAA division III school [and a member of the Texas State University System].

His remarkable story begins with a tough upbringing by a violent father who trained him to fight at every opportunity. His fighting habit took him in and out of jail several times, until a faith conversion turned his life around on the very day he was contemplating suicide.

Mike Flynt has much to offer others, not only through his story, but through his belief that it's never too late for God to heal your heart and fulfill your dreams. [Links added.]
Wikipedia's entry for Mike Flynt describes his difficult, even wacky, challenge in playing college football a second time around:
Mike Flynt is a linebacker for Division III Sul Ross State University in Alpine, Texas and wears the number 49.

Flynt is a strength coach by trade and was a conditioning coach at Nebraska, Oregon and Texas A&M. He is the inventor of the Powerbase Fitness exercise equipment. * * *

Flynt has given new meaning to being a college senior. He is a grandfather and is retired. His youngest child is a freshman at the University of Tennessee. Two of his children are older than any of his teammates.He is eight years older than his own coach, Steve Wright.

He played his last collegiate game for the Sul Ross Lobos in 1970. In 1971, he was thrown out of the university. One of his original college coaches was Jerry Larned, and he has counseled him at the start of his comeback.

Despite the fact that he is two generations older than his teammates, Flynt, a career strength and conditioning coach, told
Sports Illustrated that he can still do some things in the weightroom that the other players can't. Flynt says he can still do 25 consecutive pull-ups, for example. * * *

Once he plays, he will become the second oldest man to play in an NCAA game. Neither the NCAA or NAIA keeps age as a statistic, but research hasn't turned up anyone older than their mid-40s playing NCAA Football.

On August 23, 2007, ESPN posted an article entitled "Flynt, 59, making comeback with Sul Ross State University" by Mike Golic & John Siebel.
Finding out he was [still eligible to play football], Flynt returned to Sul Ross State this month, 37 years after he left and six years before he goes on Medicare.

His comeback peaked Wednesday with the coach saying he's made the Division III team's roster. He could be in action as soon as Sept. 1 [2007]. * * *

"I think it was Carl Yastrzemski who used to say, 'How old would you be if you didn't know how old you were?' I'd be in my late 20s or early 30s, because that's how I feel," said Flynt, who has made a living out of physical fitness.

"That's been my approach to this whole thing. I feel that good. I'm just going to find out if I can perform and make a contribution to the team." * * *

Flynt's life was supposed to be slowing down this fall. With his youngest child starting at the University of Tennessee, he and Eileen, his wife of 35 years, are planning to take advantage of being empty-nesters for the first time.

Instead, they've moved to this remote patch of West Texas so Flynt can mend an old wound and, he hopes, inspire others. * * *
The article reported a side-effect of his effort to master a nearly-impossible challenge: "[H]e laughed about the reality that fellow Baby Boomers are getting the most out of his comeback."
"People are kind of in awe. They keep comparing me to themselves and where they are physically," he said.

"If I can help anyone out by what I'm doing, then it's all worth it."
On September 15, 2007, Sporting News reported in "'Senior' LB suits up, but 59-year-old Mike Flynt doesn't play" that, after the team's third game, "[h]is first hit, however, will have to wait another week."
The 59-year-old linebacker remained on the sideline throughout his team's 55-14 loss to Division III powerhouse Mary Hardin-Baylor.

Coach Steve Wright decided to play it safe in hopes of keeping Flynt healthy for the rest of the season, especially the home opener next weekend. Leg and shoulder problems kept Flynt from even traveling to the first two games.

He made this trip, and so did his wife and about 50 former teammates and other admirers, all hoping to see "The Senior" mix it up with kids one-third his age.

They weren't the only ones disappointed. Midway through the fourth quarter, the Mary Hardin-Baylor band chanted "We want Mike Flynt!" followed by "49! 49!" (his jersey number) and finally, "Put Mike in!"

Flynt's fan club, who've dubbed themselves the "Sul Ross Baby Boomers" and wear buttons with a picture of him in uniform, joined the chants. Later, they started their own, merely shouting his last name. * * * [Links added.]
Then, as a team member listed on the roster, he played in a game against Texas Lutheran University.

Jaime Aron reported on October 13, 2007, in "
59-Year-Old Linebacker Returns to Field Posted" that Flynt first played at left offensive end on a point-after-touchdown play:
To the shreiking delight of his wife, three kids, grandson and a legion of new fans, 59-year-old Mike Flynt returned to college football action Saturday night.

His Sul Ross State teammates marched for a touchdown on their opening drive against Texas Lutheran and Flynt went in at left end on the extra-point unit. He sealed his block as the kick went through, marking his first game action in 37 years.

He remained a fixture at that spot on extra points and field goals. His first block wasn't much, but it didn't matter.

The play culminated a comeback that began almost as a dare at a reunion this summer, then was delayed by the kind of lingering aches and pains that slow most card-carrying AARP members. * * *
Texas Monthly noticed the older senior's game-play, posting a Mike Flynt multimedia feature in March 2008.

After the season, Mike wrote his book, The Senior (co-authored with a professional writer), which is available online and in stores. Portions of the book are made available online by Google Books.

You can read the text of that brief interview of Mike Flynt with Rev. Schuller on the website of the Hour of Power.

The interview concluded with Flynt's personal statement of faith.
MF: I think that people need to believe in themselves and not be afraid of failure.

I think our young people today are taught to be normal and not to step out and try things and they need understand that failure is not who you are.

Failure is just something that happens to you. But you have to step out and try. You have to believe in yourself.

You have to try and you have to trust in God.

RHS: That’s what your faith does for you.

MF: Yes sir.

* * *

"I had to try."

-- Mike Flynt, in The Senior (2008)