As a senior, Flynn ascended into the starting role and led the Tigers to the national championship. Nonetheless, as a player who scouts thought had more intangible qualities than physical skills, Flynn fell into the seventh round of the 2008 draft, where the Green Bay Packers grabbed him to presumably be the third quarterback behind Aaron Rodgers and that year's second-round pick, Brian Brohm.
As it turns out, Brohm is long gone and out of the NFL and it's Flynn who figures to be a coveted player on the free-agent market in a couple months. He'll try to improve his stock during what could be extended playing time on Sunday against Detroit.
"The word coming out when he was a prospect and getting evaluated was the guy had a ton of leadership ability and was a guy who found a way to win," offensive coordinator Joe Philbin said on Thursday. "I think early on, you really liked his command in the huddle — that was probably the first thing that jumped out at you. He seemed to have a natural flow with the other players on offense. He was a likeable guy to have as a teammate. That was probably the No. 1 thing that struck me."
Leadership. Command. Likeable.
All well and good, but no mention of a strong throwing arm or pinpoint accuracy.
Those things would come because he had the work ethic and confidence to make it happen.
"I started one year in college and I didn't even know if I was going to get drafted, to be honest with you, but I've always believed in myself," Flynn said.
Flynn beat out Brohm to be the No. 2 quarterback as a rookie, and slowly but steadily, his physical skills began to catch up with the intangibles under the tutelage of quarterbacks coach Tom Clements.
"His arm has gotten stronger over the years and it's probably a function of the work he does in the weight room and refining his techniques," Clements said. "It's not always your arm but it's sometimes getting your upper body and your legs in position. He's gotten better at that and I'm sure he's got a little more physical strength. I think it's those things combined."
Jordy Nelson, who was part of the Packers' 2008 draft class, has seen Flynn's physical improvement on a daily basis.
"He's developed extremely well," Nelson said. "His arm's gotten stronger. He's obviously learned the playbook. When you come in here as a quarterback, you're all over the place – as are a lot of rookies -- but they've got more to do. They've got to deal with protection, run game and passing game. He's confident, he's a leader. You saw that a lot last year when we played New England. He stepped in the huddle and was ready to play. He took control of the game and knew what he needed to do."
Always a strong performer during training camps and preseason games, Flynn impressed during last year's late-season game at New England. While the Packers lost 31-27, he was superb against one of the game's all-time defensive minds in Patriots coach Bill Belichick. Flynn completed 24-of-37 passes for 251 yards with three touchdowns, one interception and a passer rating of 100.2. While the performance opened eyes on a national level, it only served to confirm what the Packers' coaches had learned.
"He just has a knack of making plays," Clements said. "If things break down, he's able to take off. I guess his competitiveness is really the biggest thing that you like about him. He prepares and plays hard. When those two things happen, good results happen.
In limited action this year, Flynn has completed 2-of-5 passes for 38 yards and run for a touchdown. He figures to get a lot more action against the Lions to prove that he's better now than 54 weeks ago.
"You'd like to think so. I definitely think so," Flynn said. "Anytime you get experience working with the ones and then going in there and playing when there's live bullets, being able to prepare all week and get timing with the receivers and get timing with o-line and making your calls and calling the plays in the huddle, it's just something that people take for granted but it definitely helps and it's something that I learned from last year."
While there's little at stake for the Packers, with homefield advantage secured throughout the NFC playoffs, there's plenty on the line for Flynn, who's entering his final weeks under his four-year rookie contract. Riches and a full-time starting position await, but Flynn swears the only thing on his mind is performing well and leading the Packers to a 15th win.
"I don't think about that," Flynn said. "I think about going out there and performing well. I think about going out and doing my best and not let there be a drop-off at the position and move the ball and put up points and win the game. That's what it's all about. It's not about individually going out there and trying to make yourself look good. It's about going out and winning the game."
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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.