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4 Old Men Who Played College Football

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College football is usually a young man’s game, but occasionally an old timer finds his way onto the field. With this fall’s schedule finally in full swing, let’s take a look at four players who didn’t let their relatively advanced ages keep them off of the gridiron.

1. Tom Thompson, Austin College

In November 2009, Thompson cemented his place as the grand old man of college football when he booted an extra point for the Austin College Kangaroos in a game against Division III power Trinity. Thompson, a 61-year-old graduate student at Austin, had been a backup kicker in high school, but he dusted off his kicking skills for the first time in four decades to make the big boot. The story would have been something right out of a movie if not for the final score; Trinity waxed Austin 44-10.

2. Alan Moore, Holmes Community College/Faulkner University

Moore kicked as a freshman at Jones County Junior College in 1968. At the end of the season he headed off to fight in the Vietnam War, and once his tour of duty was over Moore never managed to get back onto the gridiron. Until last fall, that is.


After getting laid off from his job in 2009, Moore moved to Mississippi to be near his grandchildren and found he once again had the urge to kick. He bought kicking shoes, built a goal post in his daughter’s yard, and started practicing. After a failed attempt to rejoin his old squad at Jones County, the 60-year-old kicker with 40-plus-yard range suited up for Holmes Community College for the 2010 season. This year—at age 61—Moore made the squad at Faulkner University in Montgomery, Alabama.

3. Mike Flynt, Sul Ross State

Back in 2007, Flynt told his pals that his biggest regret was getting kicked off of his college football team. When a friend challenged Flynt to do something about it, the 59-year-old grandfather sprang into action. After establishing that he still had remaining eligibility, Flynt set about rejoining the team at his alma mater, Division III Sul Ross State in Texas.


Flynt wasn’t your average 59-year-old ex-jock, either. He had spent his career working as a strength and conditioning coach at schools like Tennessee and Nebraska, so he’d stayed in shape. He ended up making the Sul Ross State squad as a linebacker.

4. Tim Frisby, South Carolina

When Tim Frisby tried out for South Carolina’s squad in 2004, he wasn't exactly an old man. But he wasn’t exactly the typical walk-on, either. At age 39, he was a former U.S. Army Ranger who had served in the first Gulf War and in Kosovo. He had six children. (Gamecocks coach Lou Holtz joked that putting Frisby on the roster would at least boost attendance if his whole family came to games.)


Stranger still, Frisby wanted to try out for one of the fastest spots on the roster: wide receiver. Luckily, his years in the military had preserved both his NCAA eligibility and his body; Frisby still ran a 4.6-second 40-yard dash. In 2005 Frisby notched his first career catch, a nine-yard reception, and won the team’s offensive GPA award with a 3.6 mark in his journalism major.


The NCAA doesn’t keep age stats, but at the time researchers pegged Frisby as the oldest man to ever play Division I football. Both Holtz and his successor, Steve Spurrier, insisted that Frisby was on the team as a deserving possession receiver, not a novelty, but the man his teammates called “Pops” got to have some fun with his unusual age. He made it on the couch for both Letterman and Leno in that first season!

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#TBT
Paw Enforcement: A History of McGruff the Crime Dog
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Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

Jack Keil, executive creative director of the Dancer Fitzgerald Sample ad agency, was stuck in a Kansas City airport at three in the morning when he started thinking about Smokey Bear. Smokey was the furred face of forest fire prevention, an amiable creature who cautioned against the hazards of unattended campfires or errant cigarette butts. Everyone, it seemed, knew Smokey and heeded his words.

In 1979, Keil’s agency had been tasked with coming up with a campaign for the recently-instituted National Crime Prevention Council (NCPC), a nonprofit organization looking to educate the public about crime prevention. If Keil could create a Smokey for their mission, he figured he would have a hit. He considered an elephant who could stamp out crime, or a rabbit who was hopping mad about illegal activity.

A dog seemed to fit. Dogs bit things, and the NCPC was looking to take a bite out of crime. Keil sketched a dog reminiscent of Snoopy with a Keystone Cop-style hat.

Back at the agency, people loved the idea but hated the dog. In a week’s time, the cartoon animal would morph into McGruff, the world-weary detective who has raised awareness about everything from kidnapping to drug abuse. While he no longer looked like Snoopy, he was about to become just as famous.

In 1979, the public service advertising nonprofit the Ad Council held a meeting to discuss American paranoia. Crime was a hot button issue, with sensational reports about drugs, home invasions, and murders taking up the covers of major media outlets like Newsweek and TIME. Surveys reported that citizens were concerned about crime rates and neighborhood safety. Respondents felt helpless to do anything, since more law enforcement meant increased taxes.

To combat public perception, the Ad Council wanted to commit to an advertising campaign that would act as a preventive measure. Crime could not be stopped, but the feeling was that it could be dented with more informed communities. Maybe a clean park would be less inviting to criminals; people might need to be reminded to lock their doors.

What people did not need was a lecture. So the council enlisted Dancer Fitzgerald Sample to organize a campaign that promoted awareness in the most gentle way possible. Keil's colleagues weighed in on his dog idea; someone suggested that the canine be modeled after J. Edgar Hoover, another saw a Superman-esque dog that would fly in to interrupt crime. Sherry Nemmers and Ray Krivascy offered an alternative take: a dog wearing a trench coat and smoking a cigar, modeled in part after Peter Falk’s performance as the rumpled TV detective Columbo.

Keil had designs on getting Falk to voice the animated character, but the actor’s methodical delivery wasn’t suited to 30-second commercials, so Keil did it himself. His scratchy voice lent an authoritarian tone, but wasn't over-the-top.

The agency ran a contest on the back of cereal boxes to name the dog. “Sherlock Bones” was the most common submission, but "McGruff"—which was suggested by a New Orleans police officer—won out.

Armed with a look, a voice, and a name, Nemmers arranged for a series of ads to run in the fall of 1980. In the spots, McGruff was superimposed over scenes of a burglary and children wary of being kidnapped by men in weather-beaten cars. He advised people to call the police if they spotted something suspicious—like strangers taking off with the neighbor’s television or sofa—and to keep their doors locked. He sat at a piano and sang “users are losers” in reference to drug-abusing adolescents. (The cigar had been scrapped.)

Most importantly, the NCPC—which had taken over responsibility for McGruff's message—wanted the ads to have what the industry dubbed “fulfillment.” At the end, McGruff would advise viewers to write to a post office box for a booklet on how to prevent crime in their neck of the woods.

A lot of people did just that. More than 30,000 booklets went out during the first few months the ads aired. McGruff’s laconic presence was beginning to take off.

By 1988, an estimated 99 percent of children ages six to 12 recognized McGruff, putting him in Ronald McDonald territory. He appeared on the ABC series Webster, in parades, and in thousands of personal appearances around the country, typically with a local police officer under the suit. (The appearances were not without danger: Some dogs apparently didn't like McGruff and could get aggressive at the sight of him.)

As McGruff aged into the 1990s, his appearances grew more sporadic. The NCPC began targeting guns and drugs and wasn’t sure the cartoon dog was a good fit, so his appearances were limited to the end of some ad spots. By the 2000s, law enforcement cutbacks meant fewer cops in costume, and a reduced awareness of the crime-fighting canine. When Keil retired, an Iowa cop named Steve Parker took over McGruff's voice duties.

McGruff is still in action today, aiding in the NCPC’s efforts to raise awareness of elder abuse, internet crimes, and identity theft. The organization estimates that more than 4000 McGruffs are in circulation, though at least one of them failed to live up to the mantle. In 2014, a McGruff performer named John Morales pled guilty to possession of more than 1000 marijuana plants and a grenade launcher. He’s serving 16 years in prison.

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Animals
Watch a Panda Caretaker Cuddle With Baby Pandas While Dressed Up Like a Panda
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iStock

Some people wear suits to work—but at one Chinese nature reserve, a handful of lucky employees get to wear panda suits.

As Travel + Leisure reports, the People's Daily released a video in July of animal caretakers cuddling with baby pandas at the Wolong National Nature Reserve in China's Sichuan Province. The keepers dress in fuzzy black-and-white costumes—a sartorial choice that's equal parts adorable and imperative to the pandas' future success in the wild.

Researchers raise the pandas in captivity with the goal of eventually releasing them into their natural habitat. But according to The Atlantic, human attachment can hamper the pandas' survival chances, plus it can be stressful for the bears to interact with people. To keep the animals calm while acclimating them to forest life, the caretakers disguise their humanness with costumes, and even mask their smell by smearing the suits with panda urine and feces. Meanwhile, other keepers sometimes conceal themselves by dressing up as trees.

Below, you can watch the camouflaged panda caretakers as they cuddle baby pandas:

[h/t Travel + Leisure]

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