By GABE COHN
This is the week that all non-college athletes who dream of athletic glory have been waiting for; it’s the beginning of the intramural sports season. Teams have been carefully selected and captains have been picked. The season is ready to begin. This week kickball, ultimate frisbee, and flag football begin and every UT student gets a chance to partake in some competitive, athletic fun.
Even though most intramural sports involve UT students competing against other UT students, there is one team that is preparing for more than just UT competition: the club flag football team.
Three years ago several students at UT, who were former high school athletes and/or just skilled athletes in general, decided that they wanted to compete on a level that was higher than the intramural level. So, in conjunction with several UT faculty members, those students created the club flag football team.
When the organization was getting started, I wanted to be a part of it because I played football in high school and I missed getting my competitive juices flowing,” said Chris Grisby, the team’s captain. “So, I thought it would be a great opportunity to get back out there and compete. Every year it’s a great experience because we get to play other universities, travel around the country and represent UT.”
Club sports, including flag football, may not be on the level of NCAA college athletics, but there is still an extensive tryout that each student has to participate in.
“At each year’s tryouts, we have various drills to see how fast each player is, if they can pull flags at an efficient rate and to see how they are on both sides of the ball,” said wide receiver Joe Phillips. “Every year we look for people that have speed, hands, and can get themselves open in order to move the ball.”
The team’s roster is a hard one to crack because there are only 13 students that participate, but with the departure of several of last year’s players, many spots were up for grabs. Tryouts for those coveted spots were held last Saturday and there were a couple of newcomers who brought excitement.
“Two additions that excite us are the return of Ricky Grofsick, who took the year off last year, and our new quarterback Austin Thomas,” Phillips said. “Ricky is aggressive and makes plays on both sides of the ball and Austin seems to be the perfect fit at QB this year.”
This new excitement surrounding the team, between the new additions and the fresh slate presented to them, should bring success after an overall down year last year.
“Our season last year was not the greatest, we only went to one tournament out of a possible three,” linebacker Houston Walls said. “Our team dynamic was down and we suffered from it. We believe that we can improve in every category this year because we have got rid of the things that hurt us last season. So, we are excited to start the year with a clean slate.”
UT will have three opportunities this season to compete against the best of the best in club flag football. The NIRSA, which is the governing body for college recreation sports, will host three separate tournaments this upcoming season: The Swamp Bowl at the University of Florida (Nov. 4-6), the Battle of the Bluegrass at Western Kentucky University (Nov. 18-20), and the tournament at the University of Southern Mississippi (Dec. 3-4). These three tournaments are the highlight of the collegiate flag football season, but, the one that is the most challenging and fun tournament of them all, according to the team as a whole, is the Swamp Bowl at UF.
“We are looking forward to the Swamp Bowl like always,” Philips said. “It is the most difficult tournament by far and it helps us gauge where our strengths and weaknesses are as a team. This way we can make improvements for our other tournaments in the future.”
The NIRSA and schools across the country are trying to grow the collegiate recreational sports scene and UT is along for the ride. UT is giving its students a chance to compete on a high level despite the intramural nature of flag football and, in turn, students are reaping the benefits.
Gabe Cohn can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org