Mike Flynt: Playing Football at Age 59
By Will Dawson
The 700 Club
Sul Ross University Lobos is a typical college football team, but last season they had one player who was anything but ordinary: 59-year-old linebacker, Mike Flynt. At an age when most people are thinking about retirement, Mike was living out the glory days.
Mike’s journey to the gridiron began nearly 50 years earlier in Odessa, Texas. His love for football came from his dad.
“Yeah, Daddy loved football and always told me that he thought he would have been a good football player, but it was more important for him to be working on the farm than it was to be in school,” Mike said.
Mike was the smallest player on his junior high team and rarely got to play.
“I was 5-feet-3-inches and weighed 104 pounds. It was tough,” Mike said.
When Mike was 12, his dad said something that shaped his personality for years to come.
“Daddy had gotten upset with me and told me that he thought I was just a runt and was never going to be anything but a runt. I went to bed that night as a 12-year-old little boy thinking about that, and I made up my mind that night that I was not going to be a runt. I was going to do everything I could to grow and be stronger,” Mike said.
By his junior year he hit a growth spurt, growing 8 inches and gaining nearly 50 pounds. That year he made the team and was an all-district player his senior year. Eventually, he landed at Sul Ross State University in nearby Alpine, Texas. The only thing that overshadowed his success as a football player was his reputation as a fighter.
“I wasn’t a trouble maker, but I was a trouble seeker,” Mike said.
Mike was in and out of jail on six different occasions for fighting. The summer before his senior season he was involved in another fight. This time he was told he would be kicked off the football team.
“I was trying to appeal to them that this was my senior year, that this was my football team; that they couldn’t take this from me. I was so devastated by what happened,” Mike said. “I basically got in the back of that coach’s car that day with all my belongings and I left Alpine, left Sul Ross, my teammates - didn’t get to tell them bye. I left in disgrace.”
Mike moved to Austin to start over. He fell in love with Eileen, a Christian. The two married in 1972 and Mike seemed to curb his appetite for fights. Over the next six years he worked as a strength and conditioning coach at University of Nebraska, Oregon, and Texas A&M. Then, in 1982, Mike and Eileen went into a business deal with a friend. But the deal went bad, and their friend was indicted on several counts of fraud. While Mike was cleared of any wrong-doing, the media backlash was an embarrassment.
“It was during this time period that I became so depressed and told Eileen one afternoon that I just felt like the easiest thing for me to do was probably just to take my life,” Mike said.
“You had to stop and think - would he do something like this having his background of violence? I was concerned about him for sure,” Eileen said.
That’s when Eileen told Mike about giving his life to Jesus.
“I’d never realized, even though Eileen had always insisted that we go to church - I never really realized the depth of her relationship with Christ until that day,” Mike said. “And she began to tell me how much Jesus loved me and the plan he had for my life and how important I was to him.”
“I talked to him about faith and believing and trusting God, and all things working together for good,” Eileen said.
“She prayed for me. We cried. But I knew, from that day on, that things somehow were going to be different,” Mike said.
As Mike began studying the Bible, he learned a better way to handle his anger.
“I lived mentally on the cusp of violence all the time,” Mike said. “So now reading God’s word and realizing this was the true word of God, it was giving me a different way to think. I began to understand what turn the other cheek meant.”
Then during a college reunion in 2007, Mike shared with some old teammates that he regretted not playing his senior season. But there was more.
“I told them, ‘you know what gets me more than anything else? I still think I can play,’” Mike said.
One of his friends called his bluff. He said, “Why don’t you?”
Mike had stayed in good shape all of these years, so he saw the possibility. But he still had to convince Eileen.
“He kept bringing it up and I was like, ‘whatever,’” Eileen said.
Eileen realized how important returning to college was for Mike and finally agreed. Mike lived his dream, and made NCAA history, when this 59-year-old “senior” finished the football career he’d started 39 years earlier.
When asked if there was ever an incident where he felt like an outcast or if there was any problem being accepted by his football peers, Mike said, “It was interesting. I knew that was my first challenge - being accepted by my teammates; but when we put the helmets on, and the shoulder pads and started going through the drills and hitting they didn’t look at me any different than they did each other.”
“It was God taking that 12-year-old little boy that was so chastised by his dad for being small and enabling him to keep that commitment, to keep trusting, to keep working,” Mike said. “That was a God thing.”
Mike and Eileen now live in Franklin, Tennessee, where Mike runs a successful workout company called Powerbase Fitness. He’s the co-author of a new book called The Senior.
“For those people who didn’t have a relationship with the Lord, that were standing outside looking in, they might have said, ‘well these things are circumstantial - that happened the way they happened.’ But for me, it was God’s total control,” Mike said. “It was just the realization of God doing all the things behind the scenes that I wasn’t able to do and working all together for my good and His glory.”
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