Flag Football League Provides Outlet For Local Athletes
Players from the Omaha branch of the NFFL playing a game.
Story and Video By Josh Compton, News Net Nebraska, Photos Courtesy of the Nebraska Flag Football League
When Nick Gregath started the Nebraska Flag Football League in 2006, he didn’t know what to expect. He knew that his immediate friends would be interested, but what he didn’t know was how much the league would grow over the coming years.
“My friends and I were sitting around and decided that we should start a flag football league,” said Gregath, the 29-year-old owner of the NFFL. “I bought all of the equipment, put up a bunch of posters, and just sat back to see what would happen.”
In its first year, Gregath welcomed 31 teams to the league. Today, 75 teams and a total of over 600 players are currently members of the NFFL. Most of the players are in their mid-20s and live in Lincoln, Neb. For them, the league is all about fun, friends and a little bit of exercise.
“It’s an excuse to run around on a Sunday,” said Cody Wehrkamp, a NFFL team member and laboratory technician at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. “Plus, it feels really good to win.”
Wehrkamp said that his team is competitive but that his team doesn’t spend time creating playbooks or practicing like some of the other teams.
“We don’t practice,” said Wehrkamp. “The quarterback just draws up plays in huddle. It isn’t really formal or structured.”
The NFFL website tracks team and player stats which are updated after each game and verified by team captains.
Others play for the camaraderie and the chance to keep up the skills they learned in high school or college.
“I’ve always liked the sport and my best friend actually got me on the team,” said Micah Busboom, a student at Southeast Community College in Beatrice. “Up until I was a freshman in high school, I was a quarterback and played a little defense. It’s just fun to get back out on the field.”
Gregath knew that creating a flag football league wasn’t an original idea. He played for Run-N-Gun, a now-closed league that was located in Omaha. But Gregath also knew that interest in the league wouldn’t be a problem, as many college graduates hoped to replace intramural flag football with a city-wide league. His worry was how he could sustain the NFFL without charging too much and scaring potential teams away.
“People don’t understand that the city won’t just let you play,” said Gregath. “You have to buy insurance and you have to rent the fields.”
Gregath decided to charge $375 per team to help pay for city fees and player uniforms. Each team must also pay $15 per game to the referee. It’s this system that has helped Gregath keep the league going and ensure that it can stay in place for years to come.
The NFFL is split into two divisions. One is called Competitive and is designed for teams that have a high amount of athletic talent. The other is called Intermediate and is for teams with a moderate amount of athletic talent but aren’t as worried about wins and losses. The year is split into two seasons, Fall and Spring, and Gregath said that most teams play in both.
Players from the Omaha branch of the NFFL getting ready to play a game.
Teams play 10 or 11 regular season games in order to be seeded for playoffs at the end of the year. Each division awards a cash prize to its champion ($1,000 for Competitive and $200 for Intermediate).
Gregath and the players are happy to keep the NFFL local. Gregath said he could have given the league national and international attention by teaming up with FlagMag.com, a website that ranks flag football teams from all over the United States and a few other countries as well. He decided against it as it would mean teams would have to incur additional fees.
Gregath did decide to expand the league into Omaha, which includes a division that’s open to both men and women, in addition to the Intermediate and Competitive ones, and handed those operations over to his friend, Wyatt Godfrey, but he doesn’t see any further growth. Instead, he sees the NFFL maintaining its current size and focusing on being a fun, flag football organization for the local community.
“I started the league because my friends and I wanted to play football,” said Gregath. “I keep it going because I know that a lot of other people want the same thing.”
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