NEWARK, Del. — For the first time in 12 years, Mike Flynn can sit back and enjoy football — as a fan.
Flynn officially retired from the game in August after a 10-year career as an offensive lineman with the NFL’s Baltimore Ravens.
“My body was telling me to quit, my wife was telling me to quit and, in my mind, I was telling myself to quit,” said Flynn, a native of Agawam, Mass.
At the urging of his former coach, Jack Cosgrove, Flynn spent time Saturday with the University of Maine football team prior to its Colonial Athletic Association game at Delaware.
“I haven’t had time to think about Maine football because I’ve been playing during the season,” Flynn said. “But it feels great to come up here and see the game and have a good time and cheer on the old alma mater.”
Serving as the team’s honorary captain, Flynn addressed the Black Bears during Saturday’s team meal, hoping to make them realize how precious their time in college is.
“I told them, ‘the majority of you guys, when your career’s over at Maine, football’s over,’” he recounted. “‘You’re going to miss it and the biggest thing is, don’t have any regrets. Just play hard, give it your best.”
UMaine responded by knocking off 24th-ranked Delaware.
Flynn’s playing days ended when he was cut by the New England Patriots, who had called him during preseason.
“I definitely was done, but it was New England, Tom Brady, a chance to win a championship, and my hometown team, but it didn’t work out,” he said.
Flynn honed his skills at UMaine (Class of 1997), where he played offensive guard and tackle. He earned All-Yankee Conference first-team honors as a senior and listed former Bears coach Kirk Ferentz and ex-UMaine coach Walt Abbott as two of his key influences during his time in Orono.
Flynn relishes the memories of hanging out with his teammates and enjoying the college experience at UMaine.
“Now that I look back, I realize how much I miss it,” Flynn said. “You don’t have that kind of camaraderie at the professional level.”
Flynn originally signed with Baltimore as a free agent in 1997, was cut, then did brief stints with Tampa Bay and Jacksonville before rejoining the Ravens that December.
He became a versatile performer who could play center or guard, but he never took anything for granted because of his football background.
“Being from Maine and always trying to get through the next year, I never really got a chance to sit back and kind of smell the roses,” Flynn said.
“I can’t complain. Football’s been very good to me and it obviously gave me a lot of opportunities in my life.”
Flynn said former Patriots and Bears lineman Ted Washington and Vikings tackle Pat Williams were among his toughest opponents.
Among the highlights of his pro career was winning Super Bowl XXXV in 2001 as the Ravens’ right guard. He wears his championship ring with pride.
There is one other moment he cherishes just as much. During training camp in 1998, Flynn was in his room when there was a knock on the door.
“The guy came for my roommate,” said Flynn, explaining the visit was to tell the player he had been cut from the team. “I said, ‘what about me?’ and he said, ‘no, you’re OK.’”
Flynn, who had been cut three times by three teams as a rookie before sticking with the Ravens, had made it. He took time to relish the moment.
“It was a pretty big accomplishment for me because, coming out of left field, I never even thought I might actually get there,” he said.
Flynn is making the transition to a new career in broadcasting. He does two different football shows on the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network and also is part of the Ravens radio network’s game day team.
The jobs give him the chance to stay involved in football without absorbing the beating.
“It seems pretty easy to me, because all I’ve got to do is talk about football,” Flynn said. “It’s more of an analyst role and I really love it.”
Flynn and his wife Mary (Wells), a former softball and soccer player at UMaine, live in Baltimore with their son Jake, 2.