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June 4, 2024

This Is My Thing: Flag Football!

By: Mike Lee

Richard Samuel has had two great loves in his life: art and football. He played football as a kid, in college, and then professionally in Europe before getting a job as a coach. All the while, he pursued art as a hobby. Then one day he realized that he should flip it — he opened a gallery and became a full-time, professional artist. Now flag football is his most-loved hobby. Host Michael Lee talks to him about all that and more on the first episode of ‘This Is My Thing.’

The full transcript of this episode of KUT News Now is available on the KUT & KUTX Studio website. The transcript is also available as subtitles or captions on some podcast apps.

This Is My Thing: Flag Football!

Michael Lee: I’m Michael Lee and you’re listening to This Is My Thing. You probably found this show as part of the KUT News Now feed, so you should be aware that this show is not at all about the news. So you’re welcome or I’m sorry, whichever applies. On This Is My Thing, we’ll talk to people about the things they do just for themselves. It’s not their job and it’s not a responsibility – it’s just a thing that brings them joy or feeds their soul. This week: Flag football! Richard Samuel has had two great loves in his life: football and art. After spending some time as a professional coach and amateur artist, he flipped it around, becoming a professional artist and gallery owner who plays flag football as a hobby.

Richard Samuel: My name is Richard Samuel and flag football is my thing.
ML: I got to know you first because you’re also an artist. And I think you had just kind of made the decision to turn down a job coaching football and open an art gallery.
RS: Yeah.
ML: So you’ve got two things that you’re pretty good at that can be a personal passion and that can also – if you’re good enough – can be a job. And you were kind of at a spot where you had to decide which one you were going to get paid for and which one you were going to do just for fun.
RS: Yeah.
ML: Tell me a little bit about making that decision.
RS: Juggling art in football has been something that I’ve been doing my whole life. And I almost fooled myself my whole life because I was completely convinced that football was everything that I loved. It was the love of my life. It’s what I wanted to do. I want to play in the NFL, draft, be a coach, all of that. But I always did art my whole life, but I just viewed it as a hobby. And when I retired, I got a coaching job, I was going through that carousel. You know, it’s 24/7, I’m installing game plans, coming up with schemes, coaching, meetings, recruiting players. And I was unhappy. I was unhappy and obviously that 24/7 coaching gig is taking everything away from my art, which was already established at that point. And I was really unhappy and I couldn’t figure out why. And one day I had an epiphany and I was like Rich, maybe you don’t love football as much as you thought you did. Maybe you love art more. And it was right there. I kind of realized that art was the real love of my life, my entire life, and football was my hobby. And it switched immediately. And right then and there I quit my coaching job and opened up an art gallery here in Austin.
It was weird because, you know, when I was devoting everything to football, art was my release my entire life. And now that I’ve devoted everything to art, football is my release. So I kind of switched.
ML: Yeah, and those are two things that a lot of people would, for all of their life would enjoy as a hobby.
RS: Yeah.
ML: You happen to be pretty good at both of those things – and I’m sure you’ve worked really hard at both of them too.
RS: Yeah.
ML: So you’re in a pretty enviable position to have a real chance to, like…
RS: Do what you love.
ML: In two different really different ways.
RS: Yeah, I think that’s the key to happiness in life, is doing what you love. And it’s completely possible. You just have to get over that fear of failure.

RS:It was kind of one of those things where life just kind of shows you, you’re going in the right direction. When I decided to quit the football job or the coaching gig, I just called my mom and was like, hey, I’m starting an art gallery. Yeah, so that’s kind of how that happened (laughs).
ML: What was her reaction to that?
RS: She was so proud. My mom’s wanted me to do art instead of football… She, like, she was the mom in the stands, like a nervous wreck, like me at the bottom of the pile or anything. She was like, please just do art (laughs)!
ML: (laughing) Something they haven’t talked about is that there’s these two things that you love and that you’re good at and one of them is a little more dangerous than the other.
RS: (laughing) Yeah, you know, had a few concussions from, from football, but I haven’t got one from art yet.
ML: Yet.
RS: (laughing) Yeah, you never know, man!

ML: How did flag football come around? Did you play that as a kid?
RS: Yeah. So, flag football, I have been doing ever since college. I used to leave on our bye weeks, in between games during football season, and go play flag football tournaments. I’ve always… it’s built for players like me, you know? Scatback receiver. So, you know, it’s a lot of fun. You know, you can’t tackle me. You know, it’s just a, you know, cat and mouse game pretty much.
ML: I think people probably more or less get what flag football is. It’s basically football where there’s no tackling.
RS: Yes!
ML: You pull off a flag.
RS: Exactly. Eight-on-eight flag football, you have two flags on each hip and,yeah, you just pull the flag and that’s how you’re down. But it gets extremely competitive. I mean, we have playbooks and adjustments and, you know, several different ways that we line up and names and codes and schemes, everything you can think of for normal football applies to flag football.

RS: So there’s multiple leagues that we play in. We have a just a local league here in Austin, an intramural league that, you know, teams play from the state and those are good for practices. We have those on Thursday nights, Tuesday nights and,, Monday nights. And then they have state tournaments that you can qualify and you can go play national. A lot of our guys played college, they played semi-pro.
ML: Yeah, I guess it’s a way to kind of keep doing the thing you love without the more dangerous…
RS: Exactly. (laughs) Without killing yourself.
ML: Yeah, it probably makes your mom happy to know that people are pulling a flag off you instead of trying to…
RS: Exactly. You know she’s not freaking out.

ML: When you decided that full time coaching wasn’t for you, was there ever a moment where you were, like, I’m just done with football or did you know you were going to keep playing, but just not for money?
RS: There was… no, there was no way ever that I’d just be completely done with it. Yeah, I, like, we have to play Flag every week. I need that release. It’s a part of me, there’s no way I could ever quit it for life.
ML: So tell me a little bit more about what flag football does for your heart and for your brain.
RS: Yeah. It’s my release. You know, it’s very healthy to have a release as a human and, you know, I’m at work or being political and going through meetings and you’re going to be stressed naturally. Football is that release. I get to drive over there, let everything out, you know, put my uniform, my cleats on and it’s free. And football’s not super serious, like nobody’s paying me to do it, you know, anything. So I don’t have any super big responsibilities for it. I just get to go out there, smell the grass, you know, put on my gloves, cleats, have the camaraderie with my teammates and play the sport that has helped shape me into the human being that I am.
ML: Correct me if I’m wrong, but I’m assuming you still want to win every game.
RS: Oh, yeah. Yeah. That’s probably a fault of mine, my competitiveness, for sure. But my teammates have grown to love it. I can’t stand to lose at anything. And I pour so much persistence and determination into anything that I do in life. I think that’s why I’ve had success with art and football is because when I devote myself to something, it’s 110%. it doesn’t matter what I’m doing. And playing football, even though it’s not for money, I still want to win everything, you know. So Yeah.
ML: How do you feel if you lose a game?
RS: I let it, immediately, like, it sucks right after. But smiles all. During the, during the game, I’m 100% locked in doing everything I can. But as soon as it ends, it’s flag football. Like, you know, people are going home to their kids, you know, things like that, like, go shake everybody’s hands. I don’t lose any sleep over it. Yeah, you can’t attach itself to you. It’s got to be fun.
ML: You take it seriously but you don’t take it that seriously.
RS: Yeah. You know, because anything you do in life… my grandfather is like, you know, do it right the first time. You know, and at this point I’ve played football for so long that I’m able to play more mentally than physically. So it’s really about just being more engaged in the game, like going through your right keys, seeing what they’re doing. Like adapting that strategy. It’s like the same reason people play like solitaire, chess, you know? It’s a fun strategy game and you can devote everything into that strategy. But there’s no reason to carry any weight going home because it’s flag football (laughs).
ML: So I guess that kind of makes it pretty much the ideal thing for you to just kind of have that release, like you said.
RS: Exactly. I still get to practice, you know, the strategies, the game, catching the football, all that kind of stuff that I devoted so much time so much into that craft. I still get to practice and use it, you know, and nothing’s just tied to it.
ML: But you did say that you guys, you won last year.
RS: Yes! We did, we did win (laughs). It’s,, it’s always great to win, you know. So… (laughs).
ML: Yeah, I mean, anybody who plays something wants to win that thing.
RS: Right, right. 100%

Field producer Jack Anderson: All right, how’d it go?
RS: We really, really,,. we’re planning on trading, hitting the waiver wire for a quarterback (laughs). No, no, seriously. I mean, we, we was, we was gearing up for tournament play and we called none of the plays. So. But we won. So that’s, that’s really what matters, you know. We came together as a squad… No, I mean, I, I really just enjoy coming out here and be able to run around and play, man. It’s definitely my top hobby. Flag football’s my thing!

ML: How long can you keep playing flag football? I mean, you’re a young man but you’ve already aged out of regular football.
RS: Yeah, I’m 33 right now. Body hurts a lot of times for just random reasons, you know? Have those problems going on. But honestly,, and I’m out of shape right now. If I get myself back in shape, I think I could play flag football till 40… let’s say 42.
ML: (laughing) all right.
RS: I’ll give you 10 more years. Maybe it’ll be, maybe football will be like by that time, like, let’s just sit down and watch it on Sundays.

ML: Thanks for listening to. This Is My Thing. I’m Michael Lee and I produced the show. Jack Anderson helped out this week with field recordings. Special thanks, of course, to Richard Samuel for sharing his love of flag football with us. And thanks to Rebecca McInroy, Antonette Masondo, and Juan Garcia for helping me develop this show.
Find out more and tell us about your thing at the This Is My Thing show page at KUT.org.

Laurie Gallardo: Support for This Is My Thing comes from Eckert insurance. Worry less, live more.

This transcript was transcribed by AI, and lightly edited by a human. Accuracy may vary. This text may be revised in the future.


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