MARIETTA, GA– On Sunday afternoons one can venture to North Cobb High School and find the stadium surprisingly active. Upon walking into the stadium kids are running sprints on the worn burgundy-colored track being pushed by their trainers as their parents watch sternly.
Countless drawstring backpacks of various colors litter the sidelines. Next to the water bottles and sneakers is a speaker system playing the latest hip-hop music while athletes congregate and warm up for the ensuing match. During warm-ups players from various teams laugh and joke together.
Daniel Nwandu, a junior at Kennesaw State University, has created the Reflex Football League. Not only is it a revitalized version of flag football but it is also the name of the league. He acts as the commissioner and the founder of this new and exciting league. The sport is a result of years of him studying football and experience of playing hybrid, light-contact versions of the sport.
Nwandu, the Nigerian native, admits that he wasn’t introduced to sports until he picked up a football. “I went out there and I was terrible. I couldn’t throw the ball past 20 feet I had no athletic ability at all,” said Nwandu.
The roughest part in organizing was creating the website that supports the players and the league itself. The website took nearly eight months to complete. He also operates and maintains a Twitter and Facebook account with the other founders of his league. The other organizers keep contact with each other via GroupMeet, a social media app that members can use to send group text messages.
During the semi-finals the two teams that faced off were the Skyhawks wearing green league issued T-shirts and the Goon Squad in red. Both teams are vying for the opportunity to play in the championship game the following week.
With the Skyhawks marching down the field the Goon Squad defense stifled the drive with an interception near their own end zone and returned the football to near mid-field. Without realizing the game was almost over, Goon Squad drove down the field and scored the game winning touchdown.
Rather than the ceremonial shaking of hands both teams congregate near midfield to embrace each other. Some athletes prayed and others watched the highlights intently.
Even though the Reflex Football League just completed its third season, the league is growing quickly. The league originally had four teams who select their members through a draft system. With more exposure the RFL has doubled the amount of teams it had in its inaugural season with the addition of the Roadrunners, the Skyhawks, the Legion of the Valley and the Breeze.
Those who register for a slot in the draft are typically college-aged individuals who have a background in sports; many have varsity letter jackets from high school and have experience at the college level. There are a small few who play in nearby semi-pro leagues as well. Most of the athletes are from the Cobb county area and played against each other in high school.
A.J. Redwine, 22, is currently a student at nearby Chattahoochee Technical College “I would definitely recommend a lot of people coming because the competition would get even better,” said Redwine who played running back and safety at Kell High School and currently plays for team Gotham.
Joe Faye, a junior at Kennesaw State University, has known Daniel since their days at Sprayberry High School in Marietta, Georgia. “About a year ago he started organizing [for the league] but I know he’s definitely had plans since we got out of high school,” said Faye. “It’s really cool when an idea just grows and to see it come and happen in front of you.” Faye also admits that he has met other members of the league who he hangs out with regularly now.
Terrance Robinson, a KSU alumna, is a member of one of the four original Reflex Football teams and played in the inaugural season. Ironically, the two met through one of KSU’s own flag football teams Brick Squad. “We became good friends and later when he created his league he was showing me how he created the site as well,” Robinson said. “It just went from there.”
Nwandu has the vision and support to turn his new creation into a nationwide organization.
Reflex Football hosts two games every Sunday at 3 p.m. and the games are free of charge. They play one preseason game, four regular season games, one playoff game, one championship game, and an All-Star game to end the season.
The practices also help to build comradely between teammates who might have been cross-county rivals in previous years. Anybody can join the league, the application can be filled online at reflexfootball.com but there is a $20 fee for registration.