As Sul Ross was getting to ready to play Saturday, Delanie Flynt-Swanson looked at her 1 1/2-year-old son and said something that’s probably never been said at a college football game.
“Ready to go watch Grandpa play?” she said.
Collin shrieked with delight, sharing the excitement of his 20 relatives who’d travel from Tennessee, Oklahoma and other parts of Texas to watch 59-year-old Mike Flynt start popping kids closer in age to Collin than himself. Once again, they were only able to enjoy the sight of college football’s ultimate “senior” on the sideline.
Flynt was hoping to play for the first time in 37 years after a good week of practice but coach David Wright never sent him in.
Wright said Flynt was a backup on several special teams but the players in front of him never needed a break during Sul Ross’ 34-31 victory over Howard Payne in two overtimes. He added that Flynt hasn’t regained the spot on the depth chart he had before groin and neck injuries cost him several weeks of practice. Flynt also was seen limping after backpedaling during pregame drills, perhaps aggravating the groin problem.
“That’s OK,” his mother, 82-year-old Pat Flynt, said while leaving the stands, still wearing the homecoming-style mum given to her by members of the Sul Ross Baby Boomers Club who’ve rallied around their former classmate’s comeback.
“I’m so proud of him anyway.”
Although his kids were slightly disappointed that dad didn’t play, it couldn’t take away the pride they felt just seeing him out there.
“He’s my hero, my best friend,” said his oldest child, 33-year-old Delanie. “I couldn’t ask for a better Dad. I call him all the time to see how he’s doing at school and he always makes me feel better.”
“He’s just amazing,” added his youngest child, 18-year-old Lily.
Flynt said earlier this week he’s trying to savor every moment of this unexpected season. Even without playing, there were plenty more things to savor Saturday.
Actually, the memories began Friday at his mom’s house, when they had the biggest family gathering since Flynt’s son Micah got married five years ago. The group included Collin (whose middle name is Michael, named for the granddad he calls Papa), Flynt’s three children, the spouses of the two who are married, his wife, his two sisters, several nieces and his mother, who still puts in 40-hour weeks as a manager at the local Wal-Mart.
The group was easy to find Saturday. They were the ones wearing gray T-shirts with Flynt’s number, 49, in red on both sides, with Flynt across the back. Even Collin had one.
“Papa!” Collin said with glee when he caught up to Flynt in the parking lot a half-hour after the game.
Flynt then pulled off what had to be another college football first: Carrying his grandson onto the team bus to meet his teammates.
Howard Payne players also got a kick out of seeing Flynt holding the blonde-hair, blue-eyed boy with the big smile. As their bus was pulling out, a player hollered, “Is that your grandson?” When Flynt smiled and said it was, the guy stuck his hand out the window and gave a big thumb’s up as the bus rolled away.
In addition to family, this game featured the first visit by two of Flynt’s good friends from his first time at Sul Ross, Stubby Arnold and Stan Williamson.
Williamson took over Flynt’s linebacker spot when he was kicked off the team for fighting before the 1971 season, but his real claim to fame is having been the one who told Flynt this summer he should go back to school and make up for his lost season.
“He’s enjoying this and we all are,” Williamson said. “I just want to see him in the game. I know he’s had a few minor injuries, but I guarantee you he’ll give all he’s got.’
Jack Cooper — a former Sul Ross cheerleader who now waves a sign that reads “Flynt Rocks” and wears a T-shirt that reads, “Flynt 2.0” on the front and “Better the second time around” on the back — was among those frustrated that No. 49 didn’t play.
“One of the fans from the other side asked me what number Mike is,” Cooper said. “Everyone wants to see him play except the coach.”
When Sul Ross led 28-17 late in the third quarter, it seemed like a good opportunity for Flynt to get in. Micah Flynt made a good case for it, too.
“The defense has got to be tired,” he said. “They need fresh legs.”
Then he laughed at the irony of those fresh legs belonging to his dad, an AARP member who is only six years from collecting Social Security.