Sophomore Safety Flowers Becoming a Leader

All football teams need quality leadership to have success. Usually, leaders are members of the junior and senior classes as they have the most experience. But one of Illinois' best leaders is Bo Flowers, a sophomore in eligibility.

Bo played minor league baseball four years, so he is older than most of the players on the team. The Illini look up to him for his maturity and knowledge, not just about football but life in general. He is eager to accept that responsibility.

"Definitely. Wherever I can help guys out, whether it's a personal problem or they need somebody to talk to, I try to help them out as much as I can. If I see something that might get guys in trouble, I may say something. For the most part, I just try to lead by example.

"Hopefully, the way I carry myself, the way I handle things, the guys see that and try to take something from that. Sometimes they give me a hard time if they don't want to hear about things, they might want to do certain things and I tell them "no." I try to teach responsibility. I've been alone for a long time, so I know what it's like.

"Once you get into trouble, it's hard to get out. Some guys I played baseball with didn't make the right decision, and it was chaos for them after that. I applied that to me so I wouldn't make the same decisions. I'm not perfect, but I try to stay out of situations that can lead to something bad happening."

The product of Walther Lutheran High School is more than just a leader in the locker room. He is also running with the first team at one safety spot right now. He is competing with five other athletes for two spots, but he has grown considerably as a football player in the last year and is ready to accept all challenges.

"I feel real good. It took me all last season and spring ball to finally get back to where I need to be, to compete at this level. I haven't had all the banging of my body like most guys have had. With baseball, I haven't had all the wear and tear over the last few years. So my body is just like theirs. I definitely don't feel old."

Bo's adjustment to college football was more difficult than most because he had four years of rust to remove. Additionally, his body wasn't used to the physical demands of the sport.

"The workouts were tough because I was used to different muscles, lifting different, this is a whole different adjustment for me."

Travon Bellamy, Nate Bussey, Garrett Edwards, junior college transfer Donsay Hardeman, freshman Supo Sanni and Flowers bring a great deal of athleticism to the safety spots. Competition brings out the best in everyone.

"The (safety) group is great. Overall, we have a great group of guys, athletic, everybody wants to play, everybody is hungry. Everybody's willing to work together. That's the thing about a team. Even though we compete, we know we are a team at the end of the day. The more you compete, the more you make yourself better. And it's fun."

The Illini lost three top safeties from last year, but Bo believes the present Illini can replace them adequately.

"We got a lot of guys that got in, got some time. Even if it was a small amount of time, just the experience of getting in. And we had guys come in in the spring so they can be around guys that can help them out.

"Kevin Mitchell, Justin Sanders, and Justin Harrison helped me out a lot. So we try to pass the torch and help guys to get them going and get them adjusted. We try to bring them along faster so we can all be on the same page."

Several college football experts have looked at the Illini safety positions as one opening foe Missouri can exploit with their outstanding passing attack. Flowers is ready to face that challenge.

"We don't worry about what anyone thinks. We're going to let our actions speak for themselves. Go out there and play hardnosed football, and at the end of the day we'll let them decide how they feel about that."

The Community Health major is excited about the potential of the 2008 Illini defense.

"I told my dad, if our defense is as fast with the pads on as it is with them off, it's gonna be a sight to see. The defense is fast, everybody is flying around and having fun, and there's a lot of excitement.

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