By Adam Gonzales
Originally printed in the UTSA GameDay Program.
Marquis Flowers came into the Arizona football program as a Rivals.com four-star safety. The Phoenix, Ariz. native played in the U.S. Army All-America game, a highly touted all-star roundup where the best high school players in the country are invited. High expectations for Flowers to produce in his career as a Wildcat were, in a word, high.
As a true freshman, Flowers played in all 13 games, totaling 11 tackles while playing behind a slew of veteran safeties. Flowers was mainly a special teams player for the year.
He had a more prominent role as a sophomore. Playing in 11 games and starting in nine of them, he picked up 68 total tackles, three of them for loss, one sack, and one interception along with a fumble recovery. It looked as though he was going to be the lead safety for the Wildcats for the next two years but soon that would all change.
His junior year was the first year under new head coach Rich Rodriguez and defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel. With one week left until the season opener, he was moved to sam linebacker.
“It was tough because I didn’t have a lot of time to prepare for the new position,” said Flowers. “I had been working on safety all season up until the week before the game. It was a lot harder than I thought it was going to be.”
Flowers finished off the year with 100 total tackles with 13 for loss and 5.5 sacks. He also added three forced fumbles and intercepted three passes. He led the team in tackles for loss and was second in total tackles. It was clear that Flowers adapted quickly to his new position, and with a little more work, he could be one of the best in the country. Now a senior, Flowers has had a whole spring and fall camp preparing for the season at linebacker.
“I was able to work at it and talk to my position coach, (defensive coordinator) Coach Casteel, and he’s trying to get me to do things differently,” said Flowers. “I need to break habits that I had as a safety, but I am taking it one day at a time and I am getting better. I feel like I can do a lot better this year just knowing that it isn’t my first time playing linebacker anymore and that I have more experience.”
The experience Flowers got at safety has actually helped him play linebacker more than anticipated. Even though they are different positions, playing safety gave him some skills to be a quality linebacker.
“It helps a lot in pass coverage,” said Flowers. “If they are throwing the ball, I am completely comfortable because I am used to covering players like fast running backs since I have been a safety. It also helps a lot in open field tackling because when you play safety you have to make a lot of those plays.”
Flowers will tell you that the toughest part has definitely been breaking some of his habits that he had at safety, but he is certainly coming along.
“Block shedding is what I need to work on the most,” said Flowers. “You use your hands more as a linebacker where as a safety, your hands are at your side for the most part. Sometimes in my head I still think that I am a safety, but I am getting used to it more and more each day and I am getting better.”
As a senior, Flowers is now expected to bring more than just skills to the team. He is expected to bring leadership and the ability to teach the new players what it’s like to be a Division I student-athlete.
“I try to bring versatility to the team,” said Flowers. “I don’t want the team to be worried if they bring a running back in the slot for me to cover and I want to be able to help with the run, as well. I also help the new guys a lot. If they ever come ask me questions, I will always help them out. They are all good guys and they are going to help the program out a lot.”
If you are to ask any senior in any sport if being an elder statesman on a team is any different, they will mostly say that there is more pressure to perform. That is no different for Flowers.
“There’s a lot more pressure on me,” said Flowers. “Your margin of error is much smaller. When you are a freshmen or
sophomore, you know that you can work on what you need to get better at in the offseason, but I have to fix all of that during the season this year.”
With Flowers being in the last collegiate campaign of his career, he just wants to do one thing.
“I just want to win.”