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The Stories Behind the Oldest College Football Players of All-Time

As one player said: “It’s never too late to live your best life”

Sharing the stories behind the oldest college football players of all time
Credit-Wahpeton Daily News/Joker Mag

Being in your 30s and 40s in professional sports isn’t uncommon. Especially these days, when teams have access to some of the best training staff and equipment money can buy.

However, being that age – or even older – in the college ranks isn’t exactly normal. It’s not often you see full-grown men suiting up in a locker room full of 18 to 21-year-olds.

Many people say goodbye to their sports pursuits when they reach adulthood. But, as the following individuals prove, it’s never too late to pursue your dreams.

Here are the oldest college football players of all time.

Alan Moore (K) – 61 Years Old

A photo of 61-year-old college football player Alan Moore, with a quote from him that says "My biggest thing is to show [the students] that they should never give up on anything that they start."

At 61 years old, Alan Moore was the oldest college football player of all time. It’s a record that might never be broken.

On Saturday, September 10, 2011, Moore walked onto the gridiron and launched the ball through the uprights for the Faulkner Eagles’ first extra point of the season. Usually, something like this is a minor deal regarding college football.

However, in the case of Moore, he was a 61-year-old grandfather of five who’d last laced up his cleats in 1968.

Hailing from Mt. Olive, Mississippi, Moore was a freshman for the Jones College Bobcats before leaving to serve in the military in Vietnam. Following his commitment, Moore returned home and began a career in construction. But the itch to play football never left.

While visiting his grandkids, Moore returned to his old stomping ground and was inspired to return to the field. Constructing a goalpost in his daughter’s yard, Moore spent hours honing his skills. At 59, Moore failed to make the Bobcats’ roster, but the following season latched on with the Holmes Community College Bulldogs. 

Clad in his old-school square-toe cleats, Moore kicked field goals for a team that finished 0-9. With the goal of playing at a higher level, Moore tried out for Gregg Baker and the Eagles.

“I asked [Moore] point-blank, ‘Why are you doing this?’ ” Baker recalled. “He said, ‘Coach, my biggest thing is to show [Faulkner students] that they should never give up on anything that they start.'”

With “Believe” inked on his kicking shoe, Moore trotted off the field to a buffet of high fives, fist bumps, and congratulations from teammates that were one-third his age.

“It’s not about me, and it’s not about being old. It’s about the team,” Moore said before hugging his grandkids at midfield after the game.

Tom Thompson (K) – 60 Years Old

A picture of 60-year-old college football player Tom Thompson in his Austin Kangaroos uniform with a quote from him that says: "It's never too late to live your best life."

While he’s not the oldest college football player on this list, Tom Thompson does have the distinction of being the first college player over the age of 60 to record a point in an NCAA football game.

On November 14th, 2009, Thompson, who was once a reserve kicker during his high school career, took to the field for the Austin Kangaroos – a Division III team – as they battled the Trinity Tigers.

Having not played organized football since graduating from Admiral Farragut Academy over forty years prior, Thompson got his moment in the spotlight early in the second quarter, converting on his record-breaking extra point following a Kangaroos touchdown.

Unfortunately for Thompson and the Kangaroos, they were on the losing end of a lopsided affair, falling 44-10.

As a second-year grad student at Austin College, Thompson had to convince Coach Ronnie Gage that he wasn’t joining the team as a publicity stunt.

“I thought he was crazy, to be honest with you,” Gage said. “I just wanted to make sure. When a guy that old comes in, sits down and says he wants to play football, what do you expect?”

Thompson wrote an autobiography detailing his journey called Kick Start: A Story of Overcoming Life’s Obstacles to Inspire You to Kick Start Your Future.

“It’s never too late to live your best life,” Thompson says. “If my story says anything, it is that it is never too late to re-imagine what you want your life to be.”

Mike Flynt (LB) – 59 Years Old

A quote from 59-year-old college football player Mike Flynt: "If I helped anyone out by what I did, then it was all worth it."

In 1965, Mike Flynt was part of the Permian Panthers’ first state championship team. Four years later, he suited up for the Sul Ross State Lobos. Nearly forty years later, Flynt once again donned the shoulder pads as a walk-on player for the Lobos. 

Flynt’s story is one of redemption as at the start of his senior year at Sul Ross in 1971, he was kicked off the team for fighting. 

Fast forward to 2007 when Flynt and several of his former teammates got together at a class reunion, where the conversation came around to his biggest regret. After being challenged by a friend to right the wrong, Flynt relocated his family from Franklin, Tennessee back to Alpine, Texas.

With the help from his former coach Jerry Larned, Flynt proved to Lobos head coach Steve Wright that he could still play at the college level. All this despite being nearly forty years older than his teammates and a decade older than his coach.

On October 13th, 2007, at the age of 59, Flynt joined his new teammates on the field to battle Texas Lutheran.

The game ended up being a 45-42 triple-overtime thriller, which included Flynt lining up for the game-winning field goal.

“We won this tonight for each other; that’s what matters,” Flynt said after the game once the dogpile celebration cleared. “I’m glad my family was able to be part of this and see this. That’s important to me personally. From a team standpoint, it’s their victory.”

RELATED: The 59-Year-Old College Football Player Who Stunned The Sports World

Joe Thomas Sr. (RB) – 55 Years Old

It may have only been three yards, but for Joe Thomas Sr. it might as well have been the length of the field.

After practicing with the South Carolina State Bulldogs for nearly four years, the 55-year-old college running back made his dream come true during the first quarter of Senior Day in 2016.

“This is the happiest day of my life”, Thomas said after the game. 

As a star defensive lineman and running back, Thomas suited up for the Blackville Hawks during his last two years of high school. While he started in the working world straight out of high school, Thomas Sr.’s collegiate career ended up coinciding with his son’s time with the Bulldogs.

Although they’d never take the field together during a game, they did share practice reps on the gridiron before Thomas Jr. was picked up by the Green Bay Packers as an undrafted free agent in 2014. 

Bob Schembre (LB) – 51 Years Old

In 2008, Bob Schembre joined the Westminster Blue Jays, a Division III college football program located in Fulton, Missouri.

The team’s head coach, John Welty, agreed to meet with Schembre under the assumption that the conversation would be about his two sons, who had previously suited up for Welty.

During the conversation, Schembre disclosed to the coach that he had insight on a mystery recruit who served in the military following high school and then started a family. While the unknown player didn’t even play high school football, he was passionate about the game.

Schembre eventually admitted that he was the unknown recruit, despite being 51 years old.

Following a life filled with military service, addiction, and religious transformation, Schembre was moved by Mike Flynt’s story. Despite having four children and five grandchildren, Schembre made the team as a third-string linebacker.

He made his first official tackle during the fourth quarter of a lopsided 48-6 victory over the Principia Panthers on October 4th, 2008.

“I remember walking in that locker room I felt like a kid again. I knew some of the kids were looking at me. Some of them even looked and pointed and started laughing. One of them shook hands and said, ‘Hey, Coach.’ I was like, ‘No, I’m one of the players.’ Slowly but surely, different kids started asking me what was the deal. I would say, ‘It’s just a dream.'”

Ray Ruschel (DL) – 49 Years Old

The North Dakota State College of Science is not a college football powerhouse by any means, but that didn’t stop the school from making the news when 49-year-old Ray Ruschel joined the Wildcats as a backup defensive lineman. 

Having last played competitive football in 1992 while attending Trinity High School in Pennsylvania, Ruschel, like others on this list, decided to commit to the armed forces rather than attend college.

Thirty years later, Ruschel, who continued to work as a night shift mechanic at a sugar beet factory in North Dakota, decided to further his education and pursue college football at the same time.

Unlike his teammates, who were at least half his age – who maybe attend class, work out, and socialize – Ruschel balanced school and football with being a single father of two children, plus an overnight shift at the factory until 8 AM.

While Ruschel did his best to stay out of the spotlight, trying to be “just one of the guys”, his story captured the attention of national media outlets – something that Coach Eric Issendorf welcomes.

“I told Ray, you know, we’re embracing it. Our institution loves it. Our administration loves the attention. It’s great marketing. But it’s also a really good story.”

Tim Frisby (WR) – 39 Years Old

While he just wanted to focus on the game, it seemed like everyone else had their attention on 39-year-old Tim Frisby. From Paramount Pictures to CNN, ESPN, and even late-night talk shows, the buzz around the South Carolina Gamecocks’ meeting with the Troy Trojans was all about “Pops”.

As a walk-on for the Gamecocks football team in 2004, Frisby had previously served as a U.S. Army Ranger, leaving him in peak shape to take on the wide receiver position. A two-sport star while in high school, Frisby had actually declared for the 1996 NBA Draft while serving in the military.

Upon returning to Columbia in 2002, Frisby enrolled in the broadcast journalism program at South Carolina after being told that only full-time students were eligible to try out for the football team.

Then, during the 2005 game against the Trojans, Coach Lou Holtz called Frisby’s number during the final two minutes of the game. 

While it was only a nine-yard reception – the only college catch he’d make – Frisby captured what the moment meant to him.

“It’s hard to put into words the emotions you feel when you are on the verge of realizing what most people thought was unattainable.” 

James Stefanou (K) – 32 Years Old

He is almost half the age of the oldest player on this list, but at 32 years old, James Stefanou was still older than all of his teammates and opponents when he played for the University of Colorado.

Hailing from the Land Down Under, Stefanou was a former professional soccer player turned employee at a real estate development company in his hometown of Melbourne, Australia before coming to America. 

While he had some training for American football through ProKick Australia, Stefanou had never played the North American game before arriving at the Boulder campus. Stefanou became the team’s primary placekicker for his first three seasons.

Unfortunately, injuries took their toll, as the Aussie missed several games in his sophomore and junior season before finishing his collegiate career playing just one game as a senior.

“I didn’t give a s**t about my age,” Stefanou said. “And I’ve certainly heard a lot about it. There’s no age limit in college, so why shouldn’t I be out there playing?”

For a guy who kicked 60-yard field goals in practice, he had a great point. 

Despite his injuries, Stefanou finished his career with the Buffalos ranking among the best in school history.

Tom Hutton (P) – 32 Years Old

Tom Hutton played Australian rules football in his homeland of Newborough, Australia before taking a job at a paper mill. Recruited via the ProKick Australia program, he joined the Oklahoma State 2019 recruiting class at the age of 29.

As a punter for the Cowboys, Hutton found that the action was pretty natural and during his rookie season would go without having a punt blocked, helping OSU to a fourth-ranked punt return defense.

Known for his kicking accuracy and ability to pin the opposition deep in their own territory, Hutton, whom teammates affectionately called “Pops”, continued to find success throughout his four years as a Cowboy. 

While the COVID pandemic gave players an extra year of eligibility, Hutton – who finished his senior year at the age of 32 – graciously passed on the opportunity, claiming, “I’m not taking it. I’m already old enough.”

Austin Aune (QB) – 29 Years Old

Of all the players on this list, Austin Aune may have the most successful career in sports.

Growing up in Argyle, Texas, Aune was a two-sport star, excelling at both football and baseball. As the starting quarterback and shortstop for the Eagles, he originally planned to attend TCU to play football for the Horned Frogs. 

Then the “Evil Empire” stepped in and threw a monkey wrench into Aune’s plans. In 2012, the New York Yankees selected him in the second round of the MLB Draft and offered a $1 million signing bonus.

Clearly, this was as good a reason as any to pursue baseball over football.  

However, after six years in the Yankees minor league system, it was obvious that professional baseball wasn’t in the future for Aune. In 2018, after a cup of coffee with the Arkansas Razorbacks, Aune transferred to join the North Texas Mean Green following a fluke meeting between his wife Kristin’s boss and North Texas Head Coach Seth Littrell.

After redshirting as a freshman, Aune earned his way to QB1 status during his junior season. While the Mean Green lost their last two games of his senior season, both the Conference USA Championship game and the Frisco Bowl, his stats warranted an invitation from the Atlanta Falcons to attend their 2023 rookie minicamp.

One month after signing as an undrafted free agent, the team waived the NFL hopeful.

“I’ve given sports everything I have,” Aune said. “I’ve been in a professional organization before. Over the years, I’ve learned from my mistakes and overcome so much adversity. So at this point, what more can I ask for?”

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Written By

Life-long sports fan and avid basketball junkie in every sense of the word. The same passion I have for the Lakers translates to my extreme dislike for the Duke Blue Devils. As much as I cheer for the favorite and the dynasty, I appreciate and applaud the underdog and the grind whether you are a weekend warrior or a professional, both on and off the field.

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