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Frisco STYLE Magazine

Gridiron 'Gladiator'

Nov 01, 2022 ● By Stephen Hunt
by Stephen Hunt

Michael Lynch is living proof that some dreams never die.
In March 2018, Lynch, a part-time resident of Frisco, became a Guinness World Records holder as the oldest football player in American history when he suited up at age 68 and scored a touchdown for the South Florida Gladiators in his final of four seasons playing semi-professional football.

 “I only thought I would play for the one year. We had a good team (the first year), got eliminated in the playoffs. (I said) that was it, I was done,” Lynch, who played his first season with the Sarasota Millionaires, said. “I was banged up, but said that was enough.”

After one season with the Millionaires, the owner folded the team and became the league commissioner. Lynch landed with the Bradenton (Florida) Gladiators, where he would play three more seasons. 

“I had no intention of playing” after his first year. However, he “played that year, won a championship, beat the best team in the country, the Miami Bulls, and then we lost to the Bulls the next year,” he said. 

“I didn’t play when I was 67, but went back out when I was 68 and we won another championship, and I stepped off” the field for good. Lynch “caught a touchdown pass at 68. It was the best four years of my life.” 

 Lynch said he “loved going to practice. I was the first one there, the last one to leave. It was an out-of-body experience every second. After the fourth year, I knew there (wasn’t) much more for me to do” on the field. “I’m still healthy. I played for 16 years and never had a bad concussion or any of that stuff, so it was time. We won the championship. It was time for me to step off and that’s what I did.”

Lynch grew up in Long Island, New York, where his love of football was forged at a young age alongside three brothers and one sister. At Bay Shore High School, he played both baseball and football. During his senior year, he had a tryout with the St. Louis Cardinals. 

With several smaller schools offering him college scholarships, he decided to instead walk on at East Carolina University, where he played all four years for the Pirates. After college, in May 1976, Lynch had a tryout with the NFL’s New York Jets and had a second tryout scheduled with the then-Washington Redskins. 

 “I lasted for two days” with the Jets, Lynch said. And he never did attend Washington’s camp. “I said, `I’m a good football player, but (the guys he was up against) are better.’” 

Lynch played semi-pro football for three years in New York with his brother. “When I hung up the gear, I thought it was all over until this whole thing came about,” he said. 

Lynch spent 35 years running two of the largest recreational softball leagues on Long Island through his two companies, Major Sports and Spartan Sports, endeavors that consumed most of his time. “(It was a) lot of work, but it filled a couple of different niches. It was an intellectual exercise with a lot of scheduling, marketing and troubleshooting,” he said. 

 “I also got to get into it physically because I maintained a lot of the fields myself. It was a lot of teams and a lot of work, but it worked out very well. … It was nonstop work for nine months, but for three months a year, I got to come down to Florida, relax a couple of months, then go back to New York and get after it.”

The spark for his return to the gridiron came in 2012 when he was watching his nephew play in a high school all-star game put on by former NFL quarterback Boomer Esiason, a Long Island native. 

 Being on the field pregame and experiencing all the football-related rituals he knew so well rekindled Lynch’s competitive spirit and made him long to give playing the sport one more shot.

“I went over to the game, got on the field, saw the pregame ­— these beautiful uniforms, these shiny, high-tech new helmets — and it was almost like I got hit in the head with a meteor,” he recalled. “I said `I’ve got to get back on the football field.’”

In 2015, he asked the Millionaires’ owner if he could try out for the team. The owner said if Lynch could make it through a combine and 20 practices, he would get a roster spot.

 Lynch did exactly that, playing four seasons in Florida before hanging up his shoulder pads for good at age 68. 

 Since retiring, he wrote a screenplay about his story, titled The Golden Gladiator, which tells his inspiring tale. 

Lynch pitched the screenplay in Hollywood in 2018, but calls from parties interested in his story didn’t pan out. So he finished a book of the same name that he had started in 2015. It was released earlier this year. 

 Lynch currently divides his time between Florida and Frisco. “It’s just a beautiful area. The people are great. The high school spirit” is incredible. “The communal love, the whole town showing up (for events).” 


Stephen Hunt is a Frisco-based freelance writer.