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Mike Flynt, NCAA College Football team member’s dreams come true at 59
When Mike Flynt was a card-carrying member of AARP and six years away from being eligible for Medicare, he decided to go back to college and become the oldest contributing member of a college football team in NCAA history.
In 1965, Mike was on the first state championship football team at Odessa Permian, the high school featured in Friday Night Lights. He was offered a partial scholarship to the University of Arkansas when the Razorbacks were one of the top college football teams in the United States. However, he elected to stay closer to home and enroll at Ranger Junior College in Early, Texas. In 1969, he enrolled at Sul Ross State University in Alpine, Texas. The Sul Ross State Lobos football team was a member of the NAIA and the Lone Star Conference. The latter includes East Texas State, a team that at the time featured future NFL stars Harvey Martin and Dwight White. Flynt was a team captain at Sul Ross State and their leading tackler as a junior.
At the start of his senior year in 1971, Mike’s involvement in a fight caused him to be kicked off the football team. He still earned his college degree, but he wasn’t able to play his senior year of college football. This was something that would hang over him for many years, and that he came to consider the biggest regret of his life.
“I actually grieved for more years than I can remember,” Mike remembers. “What really got me was, that was my football team, those were my teammates, and I had let them down. I never got over it, but I finally learned to live with it.”
The idea of returning to college football presented itself at a Sul Ross State class reunion. Mike mentioned to an old college roommate how he much he had wanted to participate in that ’71 season, and his regret over letting his teammates down.
The roommate suggested he make a comeback.
Once Mike determined that he was still eligible to play, he decided to re-enroll at Sul Ross in the spring of 2007 and try out for the team. The cards were clearly stacked against him: after all, he was now 59 years old. Jerry Larned, who had coached Mike at Sul Ross during the 1969 season and counseled him at the start of his comeback, “told me I was an idiot. He said, ‘Mike, you’re not 20 years old anymore. You’re liable to cripple yourself.’” Mike understood all that, but he had a burning desire to play and atone for his earlier mistake – even though he was now a grandfather, was eight years older than his new coach, and had two children who were older than of any his new teammates.
So Mike and his supportive wife, Eileen, sold their home in Nashville, Tennessee and moved to a remote patch of West Texas so that he could mend an old emotional wound. In the process, he became an inspiration to others. Not only did Mike make the team, but he played regularly at linebacker and on special teams the last half of the 2007 season. So, at age 59, Mike Flynt became the oldest collegiate football player in NCAA history.
Mike remains modest about what he has accomplished. “If I helped—anyone out by what I did, then it was all worth it,” he says. What Mike “did” was to show us that anyone, at any age, can pursue their dreams and “Live Life to the Plus+®,” regardless of how unlikely those dreams might seem.
Mike Flynt’s inspirational story is now being made into a movie, produced by Mark Ciardi (Secretariat, The Game Plan, Miracle, and The Rookie) and scripted by Bob Eisele (Great Debators, Ray, The Dale Earnhardt Story). If all goes according to plan, The Senior will be “coming soon to a theater near you.”
In his spare time, Mike Flynt shares Juice Plus+ as a Juice Plus+ Representative.
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