Untitled Mike Flynt Project

When a 59-year-old former strength coach decided to reenroll at his alma mater and play one final year of college football, he seemed like the lead in the greatest sports movie ever. He had rabid fans, a quirky coach, heroic young teammates, and a complicated backstory filled with rebellion and redemption. Roll cameras . . .
Flynt, photographed in Alpine on October 28, 2007.
Photograph by Brent Humphreys

The movie would have to open with a shot of Jackson Field, in Alpine, home of the Sul Ross State University Lobos. Built in 1929 and having seen little touch-up since, the rock-walled stadium would give an instant feel for what it means to play small-college football in a West Texas ranching town. Narrow stacks of metal bleachers face off on either side of the gridiron, but there’s no horseshoe seating behind the goalposts, just practice fields, a few rooftops, then long stretches of scrubby desert floor. An ancient press box sits atop the home-side stands, its Plexiglas windows bowed and yellowed, with busy train tracks running just twenty yards behind it. In the film’s opening moments, an old freight train could roll by the field, hinting at a resilient power ignoring the passage of time. If the scene were filmed after a rare rainy period, as Alpine experienced in 2007, the hills around the stadium would be unbelievably green, implying a sense of renewal and rebirth. If by the time of filming the regular drought had returned, the verdant effect could be created in the editing room. Reality can never be allowed to interfere with the telling of a good story.

Set the scene at a practice. Since Mike Flynt didn’t see action at linebacker until the season’s final game, make it the Friday workout before that last contest, a home game against Mississippi College. Script it as much like that real November afternoon as possible: The players stroll onto the field in bunches, dressed in red shorts and jerseys, no pads, most carrying their beat-up gray helmets with the bar- SR-bar logo. Flynt stands out, but not because he’s forty years older than his teammates. At five nine he’s a little short, but his barrel chest, reputedly still capable of bench-pressing four hundred pounds, dwarfs everyone else’s, and his sleeves are bunched above better-defined biceps. His helmet never comes off, a nod to the old-school virtue of always being ready to go into the game.

Shots of other players reveal a ragtag bunch that couldn’t have played anywhere else, the Bad News Bears of Division III football. They’re all shapes and sizes, the tall and the short, the ripped and the rippled. Their mood is loose, and the trash talk is constant. Though their playoff

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