Detroit Lions wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown says competing in the Olympics would be a 'dream come true' / © GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA/AFP
Detroit Lions wide receiver Amon-Ra St.Brown is hoping Sunday's Pro Bowl Flag Football game could be the start of a journey to the Olympic Games as the NFL looks for its own 'Dream Team' moment.
The Pro Bowl game has switched its traditional AFC v NFC showdown into a contest of Flag Football, the short-form, no-contact, helmet-less version of American football.
That move is seen as a major boost to the bid to get flag football included in the Olympic Games for Los Angeles 2028.
American football has never featured in the Olympic Games as a medal event although was included on a 'demonstration' basis in 1904 and 1932, when the Olympics were held in St. Louis and Los Angeles respectively.
The International Federation of American Football (IFAF), the sport's global governing body, backed by the NFL, has succeeded in getting Flag Football on the shortlist of nine sports which will present their case for inclusion to LA 2028 organisers later this year.
St.Brown, who is among the players in Las Vegas this week for the Pro Bowl events, says the prospect of competing for a gold medal, for the United States or his mother's homeland Germany, would be a thrill.
"It would be amazing, as a kid growing up watching the Olympics, I watched the track and field and obviously basketball as they were the only sports I could really relate to.
- An NFL 'dream team'? -
"To be part of an Olympics, whether for the United States or Germany, to play the sport that I love the most and the sport that I make a living from and grew up on would be a dream come true," he said.
While the National Hockey League (NHL) has had issues over releasing players to feature in the Winter Olympics, the NFL is backing their players' involvement.
"The league would be supportive of NFL players participating in an LA 2028 games," said Peter O’Reilly, NFL Executive Vice President, Club Business, Major Events and International.
"The timing works in July, prior to the start of training camp so that opportunity could exist, it would be fun to see the St.Brown brothers either on a U.S. squad or Germany squad," he added.
St.Brown's brother Equanimeous also plays in the NFL for the Chicago Bears.
Flag Football is played five-against-five, with two 20 minute halves and there is no kicking, blocking or tackling. Downs are ended by removing the flag from the belt worn around the ball-carrier's waist.
O'Reilly said the decision to push for Flag Football rather than the full, tackle version in the Olympics was based on the shorter-version's easier accessibility and its popularity with women participants.
Pierre Trochet, IFAF President believes his sport could have a similar impact to how basketball showcased top American players when the NBA's top performers featured for the first time as 'The Dream Team' in the Barcelona games in 1992.
"I think everyone remembers 1992 and the superstars of the NBA taking to the international floor for the first time...the Dream Team and this weekend we are going to see the best players of the NFL on a Flag Football field," he added.
"We are not there yet in terms of Barcelona '92 but this is another first down," he said.
The IFAF has been provisionally recognised by the International Olympic Committee and has 72 national associations. The organisation has held Flag Football World Championships every two years since 2002.
As well as the nationally televised flag game between Pro Bowlers, this week's events in Las Vegas will also include youth games between ten flag teams from eight countries.