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5 NFL players for a Flag American Football Team - Part 2

After Academy coach Will Babbington kick started a discussion on which 5 NFL players he'd have in a flag American Football team, Academy Director Michael Cluskey has replied in detail below:

By Michael Cluskey, Academy Director

I’ve been known to enjoy the odd game of flag American Football in my time, that is, until I saw some film of it. Let me be clear here, inside of every offensive lineman’s head as they play a game of flag football is the visualisation of themselves as a lithe, supple gazelle, bounding downfield and then, they gracefully leap – Salmon like – for the perfectly thrown ball that eases them into their transition to the end zone and the winning score. Snap… The reality is some XXXL geezer, puffing and shuffling into the end zone and falling over as the ball slams down into the back of his head and comes to a rest in a puddle of his perspiration.

So, what does this mean when it comes to this particular gauntlet that was thrown down in such a detailed manner by Coach Babbington? Do I stick with the union and choose 5 O linemen to trundle downfield, intimidating their way into the end zone and controlling the ball for vast swathes of time? No…. Of course I don’t. I choose the following;

1. Quarterback/Safety – Jonny “Football” Manziel (Browns)

“Who”? “He’s unproven”, “He’s not big enough for the NFL”. No. This guy is going to make more headlines (if that is possible), more money and raise the profile of the sport in such a way that he will make Terrell Owens seem like an unknown hermit. Why have I chosen him? Do you honestly think anyone would be able to pull a flag from this man’s belt? To quote Alan Partridge, he is liquid football, wrapped in a layer of grease and with the ability to perform miraculous escapes and throws. Just keep running around all you receivers… you will eventually get open and the second you do the ball will come at you like a greased missile. Then, after demolishing the opposition, you’ll go out and have the most incredible, memorable, fun packed, celebrity filled after game party of your life. Jonny Football doesn’t need to say “choose me”, he’s the default setting.


2. Running Back/Linebacker – LaMichael James (49ers)

EH? A third/fourth string Running Back in San Francisco? Well, sit back down… allow me to explain. Do you see a theme emerging here. Here is the second person that, if you have seen them playing plenty of reps as a starter (as I did watching LaMichael in particular at the Oregon Ducks), you will know that this kid cannot sit still, he is pure electric. He is also a blur and tiny. Undersized for the NFL, surely?

Well, I’m picking a flag Americam Football team from NFL players, not a tree uprooting, big hitting team of monsters. LaMichael will run the ball in, indicate the TD, take the ball back to the 2PAT spot, get the water bottles filled, sell peanuts to everyone in the stand, clean all the cars in the car park then run back for the restart… all in the time it took you to blink. He is also hard as nails, if not a little injury prone, currently carrying his third dislocate elbow of his shoulder. But this is non contact, so I expect he will perform well for the team and stay pretty healthy.


James in his college days

3. Wide Receiver/Cornerback – Calvin ‘Megatron’ Johnson (Lions)

OK, he’s a machine… thus the nickname. He’s Calvin Johnson Will, of course I am picking him. He had his longest average gains last year, his 7th in the NFL. 17.8 yards per carry. He’s 6’5”, go long and then throw it up… he’ll catch it. Too old? Never.

But there’s another reason for choosing him. A secret reason. A trivial, totally selfish reason that has absolutely no logical basis or chime.

Calvin Johnson is the greatest receiver that Triple Option guru Paul Johnson has ever coached. He was the reason that so many naysayers had to sit up and say “hang on… this triple option stuff is actually quite exciting” and also one of the reasons that Paul Johnson got elevated to almost God-like status in the outer circles of the College football coaching fraternity. The one that believes in empty backfields, gadget passing plays and other gimmicky stuff like that – they had to finally admit that it was worthwhile chucking good receivers and strong armed QB into an option offence to make the ultimate offensive threat. And look at when option football started creeping into the NFL. About 6 or 7 years ago. Coincidence? I think not.


4. Receiver/Cornerback – Patrick Peterson (Cardinals)

I so, so wanted Sherman, but he has been picked up by team Babbington. But I remember this kid smashing onto the scene at LSU in cahoots the Honey Badger and ripping the place up. Not as lauded as his colourfully follicled ex teammate, but still a talent.

This position places its exponents on an island and I am looking for someone with supreme personal confidence. In Peterson I believe I have got him and the Cardinals believe that too, giving him the biggest cornerback paypacket in the league. Result.


5. Centre/Linebacker – Vontaze Burfict (Bengals)

As a long suffering Bengals fan, I wanted to crowbar a tiger into my team and I could think of no one better than Burfict, especially on the defensive side of the ball. Big, fast and agile this guy will really cause you problems in the middle and with 171 – yes, 171 – tackles last year he has received comparisons with none other than Ray Lewis (OK, it was from his own HC), he is the consumate reader of the game in the centre of the field, which makes me believe he will do a job on both sides of the ball. Especially when you also consider he got in to record six pass breakups and an interception.

So, my only question now is when do I pick up my prize, we’ll see you in the parking lot for a pick up game in 10 minutes.



1. Jonny Manziel, 2. LaMichael James, 3. Calvin Johnson, 4. Patrick Peterson, 5. Vontaze Burfict

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