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Flynt, 59, makes his debut with Sul Ross State

ALPINE, Texas -- Mike Flynt waited 37 years to get back on a
college football field. Once he did, he was part of his team's
winning play.

Playing left end on kicking plays, the 59-year-old grandfather
held his own all night, most importantly during the field goal that
gave Sul Ross State a 45-42 victory over Texas Lutheran in three
overtimes Saturday night.

With his wife, three kids, grandson and a legion of new fans
watching, Flynt kept his defender from getting into the backfield
when it mattered most, then turned, jumped and pumped his fist. He
wound up lost in a teamwide pile celebrating their second straight
win in extra periods.

"We won this tonight for each other; that's what matters,"
Flynt said. "I'm glad my family was able to be part of this and
see this. That's important to me personally. From a team
standpoint, it's their victory."

His joy was evident during a postgame gathering on the field. As
the coach spoke, Flynt couldn't stop grinning.

"I've been at a lot of great schools and experienced a lot of
this stuff," said Flynt, who was a strength coach at Nebraska,
Oregon and Texas A&M. "These guys, they're learning every bit of
this."

Flynt got in for nine snaps, including one waived off by
penalty. He stood up his rusher several times and got in a nice
chip block once. Out of respect or admiration, opposing coach
Dennis Parker never tried taking advantage of the old man. Yes,
Flynt is two years older than Parker and eight years older than his
own coach.

Afterward, Flynt went to the player he blocked most of the night
to shake his hand.

"I just told him he played a great game," Flynt said. "He was
always talking, always coming hard. I appreciate that."

Flynt was kicked out of school during two-a-days in 1971. A team
captain at the time, he never got over letting down his friends. He
mentioned that to the guys during a reunion this summer and one of
them basically dared him to come back. Discovering he was eligible,
Flynt did, only to miss the first five games because of a groin
injury and pinched nerve in his neck.

Despite being an AARP member and only six years from Medicare,
he's still in good enough shape to butt heads with kids one-third
his age -- about as old as his youngest daughter -- because he's
spent his life in the fitness business. In recent years he's sold a
piece of workout equipment he invented, even training the military.

While he's giving new meaning to being a college "senior,"
Flynt is not the oldest player ever. There was a 60-year-old for
Ashland (Ohio) in 1997, but that guy went in for one snap late in a
blowout. Flynt is truly part of his Division III team, with
expectations to eventually get in at his old position, linebacker.
The Lobos have four games left and he expects to play in them all.

He should if he's healthy, and he came out of this one feeling
fine.

"I've enjoyed every bit of this," he said. "Stepping out on
the field was kind of the exclamation point."

With Sul Ross scoring on the opening drive, Flynt got in right
away. His son, Micah, was the first to holler, "There he goes!"

All six members of his immediate family, even 1½-year-old
grandson Collin, screamed before, during and after the play. As
Flynt ran back to the sideline, a fist pump showed his thrill.

"Awesome, awesome, awesome," said his oldest daughter, Delanie
Flynt-Swanson. Then she turned to Collin, her son, and said,
"Your grandpa just played football!"

"How many other grandpas can say that?" Micah said.

"None. Zero," she said.

Eileen Flynt was watching her husband play for the first time,
having met him after college.

"I wasn't nervous," she said. "It was just exciting. I
thought I was going to be nervous."

She probably got that from her husband, who woke up ready to go.

"He slept better than the rest of us," she said, laughing.

The excitement never faded. Even after seeing her dad on the
field several times, daughter Lily, a freshman at the University of
Tennessee, said, "I'm so excited, I don't know what to do with
myself."

Flynt was quite a player back in the day, helping Odessa Permian
(of "Friday Night Lights" fame) win its first state title in
1965. He wound up at Sul Ross in 1969 and in '70 he led the team in
tackles.

Getting one of those is the next step on his comeback trail.

"I want to see him play linebacker," said Stan Williamson, the
former teammate who suggested Flynt's return. "I want to see him
hit somebody. I know he does, too."

The stands at Jackson Field were more packed than usual, with
many there to see Flynt.

An old classmate who now teaches business at Sul Ross wore a
shirt that read, "Playing fine at 59." A former cheerleader held
up a sign with the SR logo and "He's back. No fear." The
defensive coordinator's wife wore an actual Sul Ross jersey with
Flynt's No. 49.

There were former teammates like Dana Beck and Doug Connor, who
hadn't been to a game since their last game -- and Flynt's -- in
1970.

"I came to see if Mike can still play," said Beck, who played
linebacker alongside Flynt.

"I bet he can," said Connor, a former center.

A group of 10 in their mid-50s who grew up in Midland but now
live as far away as Mountain Home, Ark., came to their first Sul
Ross game. They printed up shirts in the team's red bearing the
phrase, "Put Me In Coach! I've Got Eligibility!"

"We don't know Mike Flynt from Adam," said Brenda Parker of
Baton Rouge, La. "We just like his story."

Sharon and Walter Holcombe also have no connection to Flynt or
Sul Ross, but drove two hours from Pecos for Flynt's first home
game. Disappointed he didn't play, they were excited to bump into
him and his wife at a restaurant afterward. They ended up eating
together, and getting Flynt to call their pal Norman Hill. The
Holcombes, Hill and his wife all sat in a front row Saturday.

"The guy is an inspiration," said Hill, 72.

Parker and Flynt chatted briefly before kickoff. They share a
mutual friend, so Parker has been following along.

"I could get out there for maybe one play," Parker said. "But
I wouldn't."