Former NFL quarterback Michael Vick is coming back to the gridiron in a new professional flag football league that is testing out the concept in a game next month.
The American Flag Football League, which aims to launch eight league-owned franchises in 2018, is hosting a game featuring Vick and former NFL running back Justin Forsett at Avaya Stadium in San Jose, California, on June 27.
The idea is brainchild of financier Jeff Lewis, who thought, while watching his son play flag football last Fall, that there was a business to be had by organizing some of the world's best athletes playing the game.
"I just thought to myself, 'what would this look like if great athletes played this?'" Lewis said. "There's certainly a huge pool to take guys from. Every single year, NFL teams cut 800 guys. We need less than 100 players to field eight teams."
The games will be played 7-on-7 on a full 100-yard football field with 60 minutes of game time.
The test next month also will include significant innovation to the sport. The league's flags, which are patent pending, are attached via magnets instead of the typical Velcro. When a flag is detached, a sensor detects it and an official will be able to see the exact point on the field when the flag came off, thus ceding the guesswork to science.
Not only does Lewis see former NFL players, who did well financially, extending their football careers by trying the flag game, but he also sees college stars who didn't make it to the bigger stage showing their talents on his fields.
Perhaps the best storyline would be the guy that absolutely no one ever heard of.
"We'll try to find a 60-year-old guy with a beer gut who can stand in and be a quarterback of one of our teams," Lewis said.
There's still a lot to be worked out, including how much players would be paid. One idea is to have a player of the game bonus be objectively awarded to the player who scored the most points in a pre-determined fantasy point system.
"We think what will make this successful is urgency, affinity and quality," Lewis said. "This is why shows like 'American Idol' and 'American Ninja Warriors' have been popular. We think the game and how we've set it up will give us this."
Vick had ankle surgery last month, but has committed to being a quarterback for one of the teams. He is also an adviser for the league, along with several other former NFL players, including Isaiah Kacyvenski, Rob Konrad and Donovin Darius.
The only fans who can see the game live will be the ones who buy tickets, though the game will be streamed later that day. Perhaps learning from the XFL, Lewis said he prefers having more of a soft launch in front of industry executives so that the kinks can be worked out and that a more polished product can be displayed when it is ready.