Jan 29, 2015
One More Year

abbyfunk-head.jpgBy Abigail Funk

At age 59, most strength coaches are training student-athletes and just trying to keep their physical conditioning at a functional level. Not Mike Flynt, a former strength and conditioning coach at the Universities of Nebraska and Oregon and Texas A&M Univeristy, who recently made the roster of an NCAA Division III football team.
In 1971, Flynt was starting his senior year at Sul Ross, but after an off-field altercation he was kicked off campus and the team. Flynt finished the required courses off-campus and obtained his bachelor’s degree from Sul Ross, but he always regretted not competing in his final year. So after a little research, Flynt found out he had one year of NCAA eligibility left at his alma mater and tried out for the team.

Flynt’s best friend and former teammate, Randy Wilson, told The Fairview Observer how the idea to try out for the team came up.

“Mike was talking about how difficult that last year was with him not playing football. One of the guys said, ‘As good a shape as you’re in, you ought to go back down there and play again.’ Mike looked at me and said, ‘You know, I could do this.’ I said, ‘I know you can, but remember in our day we didn’t lift too many weights. These guys are bigger, stronger, and faster than we were.'”

Not to mention younger–most of the student-athletes at training camp were younger than Flynt’s three children. But none of that discouraged Flynt from following through with the tryout. Both Flynt and his coach have declined interview requests for the time being, but Flynt could be in action as soon as this weekend, when the Lobos open their season on Sept. 1.

Flynt isn’t the only athlete past middle age who has come back to play on a college team. Last year, two women, 44 and 49 years old, were a very successful doubles team for the St. Vincent College tennis team. As full-time students at the Division III college, they paid their own way without athletic scholarships (as Flynt is also doing).

While these stories of older athletes finding a fountain of youth are an inspiration for anyone over 30 who thinks they still have something left in their competitive tank, not everyone agrees with what they’re doing. Matt Bailey, an Illinois State University student, has a negative view of Flynt’s comeback.

“Doesn’t this have to be embarrassing for all athletes on the division three level?” he writes in an opinion piece for ISU’s student newspaper, The Daily Vidette. “I would be pissed off if I saw a 59-year-old man playing ball in my rec league. This guy has the audacity to fight for a linebacker spot! Imagine a college student coming home from practice to tell his girlfriend, ‘I didn’t get the starting job.’

‘Oh, baby. I’m sorry, did one of your friends at least beat you out?’ she’d probably say.

‘Nope, a 59-year-old man making a comeback actually beat me out for the spot.’ I’ll book the shrink for the poor kid right now.”

But Flynt made the roster fair and square–no shortcuts are allowed at Sul Ross, not even for grandfathers. For Flynt, it’s not a matter of his actual age, but how young he feels.

“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,” Flynt told the Associated Press. “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.”

Good luck to you, Mike Flynt, from strength and conditioning coaches (of any age) everywhere and all of us at Training & Conditioning. We’ll be following you on the field this season.

Abigail Funk is an Assistant Editor at Training & Conditioning.


I’m 54, and a Conditioning Coach for the Southern Vermont Storm Semi-Pro
Football team of the NEFL, based in Bennington, Vermont. I applaud Mike
for his effort and intensity! Good luck with your season, and continue
to set a high standard for those that are younger!
–Bob Kurtzner, MS, CSCS

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