What happens when you take some of the best athletes on the planet and have them square off in the fastest, funnest brand of football possible?
You get the American Flag Football League, a new venture coming to the NFL Network this summer. The AFFL features talents like Chad Johnson, Michael Vick, Nate Robinson, Fred Jackson, Carlos Boozer and Jahvid Best, as well as some of the best amateur flag football players from across the country.
Here’s how it works: Beginning June 30, the final 11 games of a single-elimination tournament dubbed the U.S. Open of Football will air on NFL Network. It will culminate in “America’s Champion” taking on the “Pro Champion” in a final battle for $1,000,000. While the Pro Champion will come from a bracket loaded with pro talent, America’s Champion will emerge from the amateur bracket. But make no mistake, these amateurs can ball—one team features 1996 Heisman Trophy winner Danny Wuerffel at quarterback, while another squad features a geologist who happens to run a 4.3 40-Yard Dash.
For former pros, the AFFL is a precious chance to keep competing. “Anything competitive, I’m down to do it. (We’re taking) flag football as it is to the next level and making it extremely competitive.” Johnson said at the AFFL’s recent pro training camp in McKinney, Texas (highlights of which can be seen in the video player above). “You have guys who were some of the best in the world at one point coming together to get the juices flowing and have some fun together.”
Jackson echoed those sentiments, saying the AFFL is a great way for him to continue playing the sport he loves. “This is an opportunity to keep playing at a high level and compete against some guys who were great in this game. When I was offered the opportunity, I was all over it,” Jackson says.
During the recent AFFL pro training camp in Dallas, the competitiveness and energy among the players was palpable. They were also having a blast. Where else can you see Nate Robinson, Tajh Boyd and Matt Barnes hook up for a flea flicker?
A mixture of extreme competitiveness and unabashed exuberance is exactly what AFFL founder Jeff Lewis had in mind when he set out to create the league. “We’re talking about some of the greatest athletes in the world, but they look like kids. One of the things we sometimes forget about sports is they’re all kids’ games. And when you take all the joy out of it, the games get sorta tired. You’ve gotta let people express themselves,” Lewis says. “There’s really nothing like watching someone who’s great at something who’s also enjoying it and is sort of sharing it with you.”
To learn more about the AFFL—including the official rules and the dates you can catch their 11 televised games this summer—head over to the league’s official website.
Photo Credit: American Flag Football League