Matt Leinert, the 2004 Heisman Trophy winning quarterback and a Cardinals number 1 draft choice, did not play tackle football until he attended high school in southern California.
“Flag football was the sport that first introduced me to competitive football, “ the 38-year old Leinert recalls. “Why? I was always too big to play tackle football so up until high school, I could only play flag. It was there I developed the fundamentals that helped me win a high school championship, two NCAA titles at USC and the Heisman.”
Leinert’s appreciation for flag football inspired him to start his own Matt Leinert Flag Football league in Newport Beach (CA) in 2010 for boys and girls PreK through 8th grade. The goal of the league– in cooperation with NFL Flag Football– is to provide a fun experience for kids while also developing and furthering their football skills.
While young girls always have been allowed to compete, most stopped playing after the eighth grade. Leinert’s newest venture this fall will feature the first league in southern California with an official high school division for girls throughout Orange County. Under Armor already has agreed to design home and away uniforms for the 10 new teams.
“We really thought there is a need for this at the high school level,” says Leinert, who in his “spare time” is an analyst for Fox Sports. “We wanted an outlet and opportunity for girls to not just finish playing in eighth grade but continue because these girls just love the sport. They love playing flag football. We saw the growing trend of girls who wanted to participate, the parents were into it, and this has really grown.”
Leinert’s ultimate goal is to have the California Interscholastic Foundation make girls flag football an officially sanctioned sport.
Matt Leinert primarily served as a backup quarterback for the Cardinals, Texans, and Raiders during a seven-year (2006-12) NFL career. However, he continues to make an impact on our great sport through his work with youngsters in southern California.
We at NFL Alumni commend him and all of you NFL alumni who coach and mentor players—both boys and girls– on the youth and high school level.