New flag football league brings out former NFL stars

Terrell Owens and Chad Johnson ran pass patterns with big smiles on their faces visible throughout the stadium.

Michael Vick was flinging touchdown passes the way he did in his peak as an NFL star.

Instead of an old-timers day, this was more of a throwback night with those three former stars headlining lineups with several former NFL players for the debut event of the American Flag Football League in hopes of showing that this sport played mostly by kids could have a future as a professional league.

“I’ve played flag football since I was a kid,” Johnson said. “The only difference about playing here and playing other places, here was much faster because the level of talent. Obviously everyone has played before. It was extremely fast.”

The American Flag Football League played the game Tuesday in San Jose in advance of plans by founder Jeff Lewis to launch a spring league in 2018. In front of a crowd of several hundred people, Team Vick prevailed over Team Owens 64-41 behind Vick’s eight TD passes and 547 yards passing.

“It’s something different,” said Vick, who was attracted to the sport by watching his daughter play flag football. “My playing days are over but I can play now and not get hit, not get tackled. I think that’s pretty cool.”

The game featured other notable former NFL players such as Justin Forsett, Kerry Rhodes, Steve Smith and Nick Collins; lesser-known players looking for a break such as game MVP Evan Rodriguez who is hoping NFL teams might give him another look after his nine catches for 210 yards and four TDs; and former Cornell lacrosse player Max Seibald, who was the top collegiate player in the country in 2009.

“I think it definitely would help the league to have some guys with household names,” Owens said. “But this game is purely made from speed. Just like any other game, there’s a lot of skill involved.”

Lewis knows marquee names will draw fans in initially. But Lewis wants most of the teams to be filled from a pool of scores of younger players who have been recently cut or never made NFL rosters rather than out-of-shape old-timers.

“You could trot 45 and 50-year-old football players out and it would be nice to see people you remember but it’s not going to be great,” Lewis said. “We want it to really be compellingly high quality. The players who played who have played previously are going to be playing because they’re world-class athletes.”

Lewis got the idea to start this league a few years ago while watching his son…

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