Imagine this: A Danish fisherman, a recent convert to the game of flag football playing for his country’s pride, lines up with his eyes on the wide receiver he’s covering. The ball is snapped, and Zay Flowers is gone before the fisherman can even blink.
The NFL plans to work with the players’ union to allow its athletes to compete in the 2028 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles now that men’s and women’s flag football have been added to the Games. The prospect of NFL stars competing against aspiring football players from other countries is setting imaginations on fire, with memes on social media casting the everymen seeking Olympic glory against freakishly athletic pro players.
Imagine how Austrian plumbers would react to Indianapolis Colts quarterback Anthony Richardson or how a defensive back from Estonia would do against speedy Miami Dolphins wide receiver Tyreek Hill.
Imagine trying to chase Flowers, which NFL defenders can barely do.
“You would never catch his flag,” said Ravens backup quarterback Josh Johnson.
Johnson was far from the only player to say Flowers would be the Ravens’ best representative for Team USA, although a few threw quarterback Lamar Jackson’s name in the ring.
Flowers appreciated the compliment almost as much as he’s appreciated the memes about NFL players competing in flag. As one of the youngest players on the roster, he has a good chance of remaining in the league until 2028. However, he’s not ready to commit to a tryout.
“It depends how I’m feeling after the season,” the rookie said. “You get tackled every day — it’s different than basketball when you just go out and shoot hoops. I’d have to see when the time comes.”
In reality, other countries aren’t starting flag football programs from scratch now that the Olympic announcement has been made. According to an article on the NFL’s website, about 20 million people play the sport in more than 100 countries. The International Federation of American Football World Flag Football Championships in 2024 will host 65 teams.
“I’m excited for the other countries, honestly, to showcase their understanding of the game of American football and the talent that they have,” wide receiver Nelson Agholor said.
Neither Agholor nor Flowers has played flag, but Johnson recently played with “a group of older guys” while training and found the sport brings out qualities in players you don’t see when playing traditional football.
“You see more athleticism from some guys that they kind of wouldn’t show in our game,” Johnson said. “You have more ability to be elusive with people grabbing your flag versus trying to tackle you. Because tackling, you don’t have to carry all that equipment as well.”
As for playing quarterback, Johnson learned a lot from having almost no time before an unblocked defender rushes you. It forced him to make quicker decisions. He has no doubt Jackson would be elite at flag football with his ability to scramble and make time for himself.
“Quarterback’s gotta be Lamar Jackson,” Agholor said.
As the online chatter shows, the NFL could supply a star-studded roster for Team USA, an opportunity previously unavailable to football athletes. But, as of Week 5, the league also had 113 players who were born outside the country.
The Ravens have their share. Brent Urban and Tavius Robinson are Canadian, while David Ojabo was born in Nigeria and Daniel Faalele was born in Australia. Ojabo also lived in Scotland. Kyle Hamilton was born in Greece, where his father played professional basketball, but his family later moved to Atlanta. Additionally, Odafe Oweh is a first-generation Nigerian American.
Assuming NFL players get to play, Urban thinks his decision would be easy.
“I’d probably play for Canada because I probably wouldn’t make the U.S. team,” Urban said with a laugh. “As a D-tackle, [my skills] probably wouldn’t transfer that great.”