ALPINE, Texas (AP) -Standing in his uniform outside the Sul Ross State locker room, Mike Flynt heard his former teammates being introduced one by one at midfield and couldn't help but think back - way back - to when they used to play together.
Then the 59-year-old grandfather thought about his new teammates still in the locker room, and the emotions hit him about the time the public-address announcer said, ``From Odessa Permian High School, linebacker, 1969, '70 and now 2007, number 49, Mike Flynt!''
To the delight of several thousand fans, Flynt ran out and greeted each of his 29 pals, some he hadn't seen since he was kicked off the team 37 years ago. Then school president Vic Morgan brought Flynt in front of the group and presented him with something special: A framed letter from Gov. Rick Perry congratulating Flynt on his inspiring return to college football.
``I often tell students that their opportunities are limitless if they only dream, dare and do,'' Perry wrote. ``You are showing us all that those opportunities are truly endless.''
Another treat was Flynt being among seven game-day captains. The honor went to all the team's seniors, and college football has never had a senior like this guy.
Flynt was on the field for seven plays during a 46-36 loss to Hardin-Simmons on Saturday, lining up at left end on the field goal and extra point units. He made all his blocks and even forced the return of a blocked kick to be taken to the other side of the field, albeit running gingerly because of a groin injury that sidelined him the first five games. This was his third straight week of playing, with two to go.
Game action has been almost a bonus for Flynt - especially on homecoming weekend, when a series of events made the lasting impact of his return start to sink in.
``It's just amazing,'' Flynt said. ``People I don't know are inspired by what I'm doing and changing their lives, and I think that's so wonderful. I'm truly humbled by the whole thing.''
The festivities began Friday afternoon, when a new stone bench was placed outside the athletic building. It bears the inscription, ``Dedicated to the 2007 football team and Mike Flynt, No. 49,'' carved between two Sul Ross logos. It was donated by the Sul Ross Baby Boomers, the group of alums who threw the summer reunion during which Flynt told his friends how much he regretted missing his senior year and one of them suggested he do something about it.
The players from Flynt's first era are not only reconnecting with the program, they're also reconnecting with each other. Kind of ironic that the guy who lived so long with the regret of having let his friends down is now the reason they're all coming back together.
They told him so Friday night.
``They said, `Don't think for one minute that you haven't made up for what happened,''' Flynt said. ``It's just good to hear those things.''
The current era is pretty fond of him, too, as evidenced by how many of them lined up to have their pictures taken with him after the game, usually along with their parents, most of them younger than Flynt.
Safety Jamal Johnson said even though Flynt is eight years older than their coach, players consider him a peer.
``He's doing the same things we're doing every day, so his words mean more (than coaches'). He's a teammate for sure, to the heart,'' Johnson said, banging his chest twice for emphasis. ``We accepted Mike from Day 1. Everybody was trying to make fun of us for this 59-year-old, but to us he is our teammate. Can't nobody erase that.''
Even the Hardin-Simmons quarterback waited for a turn to be photographed with Flynt; his mom wanted her program signed. Several Hardin-Simmons coaches came by to say hi and to offer their congratulations, too.
Then a few of Flynt's old teammates gathered for a picture. Before the first click, a bunch more moved in. As they were getting arranged, taunts were fired, many centering on how long it would take the guys who were kneeling to get up.
Amid the jokes, Terry Stuebing offered a confession:
``Mike, we were going to carry you off the field, but we're too damn old!''

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