State of the Hogs: Trey Flowers

Trey Flowers got his intensity and hard hitting approach to defense from watching "Waterboy" as a youngster. That's the scoop from Robert Flowers, the senior defensive end's father.

Robert Flowers didn't coach his son in football, except maybe a little bit in peewee ball. But Trey Flowers said his father always coached him in his life skills, probably the key in Bret Bielema's ability to talk his big defensive end into one more year on the Arkansas football team.

Bielema went to the Flowers home in Harvest, Ala., to explain the benefits of a senior year after the NFL gave him a third-round grade for the draft. Bielema put a plan on paper that showed how Flowers would be used in spring drills (no scrimmages), the way he would be promoted and the money difference between a third round and a potential first or second round draft.

"I'm sure all of that is important, but I think what really made a difference for Trey was that if he came back, he'd get his degree," Robert Flowers said. "We had stressed degree when he went there. He was a straight A student in high school and carried that forward. To do all of that work on your grades for all of those years, it would have been an injustice to not get that degree."

Robert Flowers said it was a matter of doing what some older brothers didn't. Robert and Jacqueline Flowers have 10 children, six sons. Trey is seventh in line.

"There are five brothers," Robert said. "One played at Cincinnati, another at Middle Tennessee. There was one older than Robert that didn't get to go to South Carolina because of his grades.

"To do all of that work on your grades for all of those years, it would have been an injustice to not get that degree."
-Robert Flowers

"That was before Trey started in the ninth grade and I had made the point to him that the way to do it, concentrate right off in high school. Some don't figure it out until it's too late and a lot of the time it's a bad start in the ninth and 10th grade that does it.

"I told him to focus on all A's in the ninth grade and again in the 10th grade, and that by the time you get to the 11th grade, it would be important and you'd carry it through. He did just that.

"The idea was that he would allocate two hours to study after school, before doing anything else and he did just that. It takes care of itself when you do that. Honestly, that's what he did."

Flowers was a late pickup for the Hogs, not because Robert Flowers helped any. In fact, he said he sent tape of his son to every other SEC school and most in the ACC, but never to Arkansas.

"I had a job in Ft. Smith one time and as I was driving back, I saw the exit sign for Fayetteville on the Interstate," he said. "So I timed how far it was home. Seven hours. I said then, he wouldn't be going that dang far from home."

But after rounds and rounds of tape to other closer SEC schools bore no fruit, it appeared Trey was headed to Georgia Tech. That was before a call from UA assistant Steve Caldwell the week before signing day.

"Trey had committed to Georgia Tech on Wednesday and we got there Friday," Robert said. "Coach (Bobby) Petrino offered when we got there, although I didn't know it until the next day. By then, Trey had already committed. Again, I didn't even know it."

That was not a problem. Robert Flowers said he'd backed out of the center of the recruiting several weeks ago.

"I had tried to help," he said. "I had called every coach I knew and gotten tape after tape to SEC schools. I sent tape three times to some of them. Finally, I got down on my knees and prayed for my sons prayers to be answered, not mine. And, that's when it worked out."

Trey just smiles when his father's name is mentioned.

"I wouldn't say he coached me, but he did," Trey said. "He'd be at everything. He'd tell me things. He'd help me. He always told me the right things."

Robert said he didn't really have to tell him much.

"Really, the older kids, most all of them, they were kicking all the way, if you know what I mean," Robert said. "I guess Trey was listening all that time. He probably knew what I would have told him and I didn't have to, if that makes any sense. I didn't have to whip him hardly at all. He always tells people that he got five whuppings. I remember two, so maybe the other three were from his mother."

Teammates always called Flowers the quiet one. Some were surprised when he began to speak to the team as a junior. No one had seen that side.

"I think that's right," Robert said. "Tank (Tenarius Wright) told us at the Cotton Bowl his freshman year that Trey played five games before anyone heard him say a word. I don't think his suite mates heard him talk at all. He was just focused on school and football. That's just the way Trey handles things."

Those other three suite mates are all gone now. None of them made it. Lonnie Gosha was the first to leave. Darrell Thomas-Kelly and Horace Arkadie exited this spring.

"I think Trey intimidated some of those the first fall he was there," Robert said. "He told me that he'd work an hour on his body back in the dorm, doing situps and pushups, that's after whatever they did in the weight room. He was all business."

Or, economics, or engineering, or business.

"The plan coming to school was to major in engineering," Robert said. "That's what he wanted."

That was before Wright broke his arm and Flowers became a starter during the Alabama game in the season's first month.

"I don't think anyone thought he was going to play that much," Robert said. "It was during that fall when Trey told us that he might have to change his major. He said engineering wasn't easy for a football player's schedule.

"That was OK, because by then it was clear that football was going to be his ticket. So he switched to economics and has added some business classes to go with it. He's done well with his academics, just like high school. His high school GPA was 4.03 and he's close to it still."

Robert Flowers has known his son was a football player since about age 6.

"You know, that was about the time that the movie Water Boy came out, with Adam Sandler playing Bobby Boucher," Robert said. "That movie made an impression on Trey. He wanted to play like Bobby Boucher."

And, it was easy to track him on the field, especially on those peewee teams.

"His head was too big for the helmets they had, a huge head," Robert said. "So I went over to see the equipment manager at Alabama A&M, a friend of mine. They had a test helmet, without a face mask. It was black and all the rest of the helmets on our team were white. We put a face mask on it and that's what he wore for several years.

"You'd see that black helmet in the middle of the pile. He was knocking the crap out of kids, making them cry. Amazing. He played middle linebacker and he tried to be Bobby Boucher."

And, there was a brief period where he played center.

"We played the team in our town that no one beat," Robert said. "The same coach had this team and they were undefeated for 20 years. We had been having trouble with their tackle beating up our center and messing up the snap. Lots of fumbles and we were behind at halftime. Our coach asked for volunteers to center and Trey said he'd do it. The second half he whipped up on that middle linebacker. We came back to tie them, then whipped them when we played them the second time.

"That coach goes to church with us. He said he hasn't lost since and that Trey's bunch has kept him from having a long, long streak."

The die was cast on Trey's first play at center in that first game.

"Trey hit the tackle, the linebacker and then hit someone else," Robert said. "He escorted the back to the end zone. There was a fast guy coming at the end and Trey waited on him and kinda bluffed like he was going to hit him. The kid turned away. Amazing. Trey was looking for more all the way down the field."

It wasn't long afterwards that father took son to an Alabama A&M game to watch Robert Mathis, the star pass rusher for the Indianapolis Colts.

"Robert Mathis put on a show, seven sacks," Robert said. "I was just raving about him and how proud I'd be to have a son like that. Trey was still little, but he heard me. I really didn't mean it like that. But from that point on, that's how he played. He wanted me to be as proud of him as I was of Robert Mathis and talk like that about him."

Robert Flowers said Bielema's plan was interesting and complete.

"I'll say this about Coach Bielema, he's a man of his word," Robert Flowers said. "Everything he's said has come true."

Now, there's this part about playing some tight end that all are hiting at, but Robert Flowers said it's not really a big deal.

"I know there's talk about that and it was in the plan," Robert said. "I think Trey likes it, but it's really more about coming back for his degree."

The tight end packages that Bielema has mentioned for Flowers do create a buzz. And it shouldn't surprise since Bielema is all about getting his best players on the field, even if that means all of them line up at tight end. Starting tight end Hunter Henry thinks it's a good idea and it's not exactly new.

"We had some plays with Trey that we practiced last year," Henry said. "We just never used them in a game. I welcome Trey to our position. Bring him over. He's a big impact player. We can use athletes there."

Bielema said those are packages that will be revisted in the fall. But it was mentioned on the trip to Alabama to see Trey's parents.

"Trey playing offense, we talked about that when we layed out our plan for him this spring and in the fall when he was making the decision to come back," Bielema said. "He agreed to that."

Flowers said, "Oh, yeah, man. I like that. I think I got some of that tight end still in me. I think people have thought I might be a tight end when they see I wear the 86. That's a tight end number and I think I got a few moves in me. I played a little tight end in high school. A little bit. I show my moves when I get my hands on the football."

Williams welcomes "Big Trey" to offense, too.

"He can play anywhere he wants," Williams said. "I'd love that. I know he can play tight end and help us."

That wouldn't surprise defensive coordinator Robb Smith. He hasn't seen anything Flowers can't do.

"I'm very impressed," Smith said. "He was as good as advertised. You never know what truly what to expect, but when you get a chance to work with somebody that is Trey's caliber it's clear that he's going to help us a lot this year.

"That's an understatement. He's a guy that everyone looks to in practice to see how he's going to respond, how he's going to do things. Even in the scrimmages that he wasn't involved in from a physical standpoint, I thought he communicated and had a presence there. We are going to need him to be a leader to get where we are going to go."

Smith sees versatility in his line and will mix and match to gain advantages. That goes for Flowers at end, along with Deatrich Wise and JaMichael Winston. All three of those can play multiple positions. Taiwan Johnson, a converted end, has proven valuable, too. In a day when spread teams force you to play in space and require speed in the inside, Johnson gives the Hogs that at tackle.

Johnson was a nice bonus inside. He was often mentioned by visitors like former NFL head coach Dave Wannstedt. Smith will find a way to use his speed and quickness.

"What we are trying to do going back to the word role, guys are going to have specific things they do and what we are doing," Smith said. "You are not just an interior defensive tackle. You will be specialized whether you are playing on a center or playing on a guard. That has helped him in his progression."

Flowers didn't play in the spring game, per Bielema's winter plan for him to sit out all scrimmage work in the spring. He did have some pride in the way his defensive teammates played.

"I feel like our defense came out ready," Flowers said. "We were hitting hard, we were creating turnovers and getting ball disruptions"

There were some that focused on lack of effectiveness from the offense, instead of praise for the defense. Flowers said that's a mistake.

"Our offense is doing well, but our defense is getting better, and they came out ready to play," he said. "I like to think a lot of that was due to our defensive play."

Trey Flowers said the goal is "to play championship football," and when it's done to be holding that degree.

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