Monday, October 31, 2016

Trey Flowers' foundation was laid a long time ago

Trey Flowers, right, celebrates with Malcom Brown after recovering a fumble during a preseason game in August.

By Mark Daniels
October 29, 2016

FOXBORO -- In this family, you literally earned your keep. Summers weren’t spent slacking off, soaking in the sun or couch surfing. Instead, days started early and ended late.

For Trey Flowers, learning about the real world came when he was only a child.

Along with his 10 siblings, this Huntsville, Ala., native spent the summer months working for his father, Robert Flowers, who owns Flowers Construction Co. When he was really young, he was merely a helper, who gathered nails and various tools. By the time he was 10-years-old, he was learning how to build houses. He put up walls and hung shingles.

At 12, Robert Flowers had a helper who was more efficient then some of the men he worked with.

“I’m a contractor. I worked hard. I wanted them to work, too,” Robert Flowers said. “Trey worked as hard as I did. When he was 12-years-old, he was worth $25 an hour to me. He could put on as much shingles or do as much construction work as any grown man.”

A house is only as strong as its foundation. It’s what the structure relies on over the years and what allows the building to last when times get tough. It was during these times when a foundation was set for Trey Flowers.

The groundwork was laid early on. Trey Flowers has relied on that blue-collar work ethic all his life and does so now as he tries to make it in the NFL.

“We grew up on a construction site,” the Patriots defensive end said. “It was just something about coming home, you’ve been gone from 6 in the morning to 8 at night coming home to a good meal, take a shower, go to sleep and do it all the next day. It was something that was instilled into us at a young age.”

Starting early

Before he ever stepped foot on a construction site, Trey Flowers was addicted to pushing himself.

Robert Flowers loved challenging his children. One of his favorite ways was in the form of a push-up contest. With Trey Flowers, this started when he was 4-years-old.

The father started his son off small – around 25 pushups - and had him steadily work his way up. As he grew older, the push-up challenge only intensified and could happen at any time, anywhere. While watching Alabama A&M football games, if Trey wanted something from the concession stand, he’d have to do pushups there in the bleachers. When his father had friends over, he’d brag that his son could do 100 and there his boy would drop to the floor.

“When he was 6 or 7, he could do 100 pushups,” Robert Flowers said. “We used to go to ball games at Alabama A&M, that’s where I graduated from, me and him would be sitting there with some of my friends and I’d tell him, ‘Trey, get down and give me 75 pushups.’ He’d go down and get 75 pushups. He loved doing it. He’ll still do pushups right now.”

“That’s just the type he was,” Trey Flowers added. “I’d be sitting watching TV or something and he’d walk through the den and say, ‘give me 50 pushups.’ And then I had to knock them out.”

Trey Flowers never complained. He enjoyed the challenge. After all, he watched his older siblings do the same thing.

He’s the seventh child in the family – some are half brothers and sisters. Among the siblings, he has five brothers - Jamal, Josh, Rod, Ced and Joshua – and four sisters - Jacqueise, Jazzmine, Summer, Shanequa. For Rod Flowers, nine years older, it was clear that his younger brother’s work ethic was unique.

“You know that pain when you’re doing pushups? Trey began to love it as a young kid,” Rod Flowers said. “As he got older he was just so much stronger than anyone because my dad had him doing pushups the whole time [during his childhood].”

A family thing

All the children in this family learned of hard work early and for some, it paid off in the form of athletic scholarships.

Rod Flowers was the first brother to go to college, earning a basketball scholarship from Bob Huggins and Cincinnati. After transferring to Tennessee State, as a senior, he earned a tryout with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as a tight end in their rookie minicamp.

Then there was Jamal, who earned a football scholarship to Middle Tennessee, where he was a standout offensive lineman. Then his sister, Jazzmine, played soccer at Alabama A&M.

“I kind of set the bar for all the younger brothers,” said Rod Flowers, who played professional basketball overseas in Switzerland, Austria, Hungary, Uruguay and France. “You at least have to go to college. That’s the minimum.”

“It definitely inspired me,” Trey Flowers added. “It set the standard for going to college, going to school playing ball, getting a scholarship. You grew up around it, grew up going to college games. You get the mindset of ‘OK, this is where we’re going to go.’”

Trey Flower’s lone SEC scholarship offer was from Arkansas and it came late in process. The staff discovered him through a Youtube highlight video and scouted him at a basketball game. When he got to campus, the defensive end found himself buried on the depth chart behind more highly regarded recruits.

In that time, Trey Flowers turned to what he knew best.

“They would lift weights and he would go to the dorm and he’d do pushups and sit-ups, work on his core again,” Robert Flowers said. “There were players recruited way higher than him and he was starting after four games.”

“Obviously you’re frustrated, you come from high school playing a lot and then you go to Arkansas and now you’re at the bottom of the chart,” Trey Flowers added. “You had to work your way up. That was the main thing. It wasn’t about complaining or complaining about the situation. It was go to work and get better at it.”

Lessons learned

Trey Flowers carried all these lessons with him to Foxboro.

Last year, after a strong start in the preseason, he suffered a shoulder injury and spent the majority of his 2015 rookie season on the injured reserve. It was a challenge to be without football for the first time since he started playing.

“It was tough on him. He started playing football at 6-years-old,” Robert Flowers said. “He had played football and started from that time to the time he was in New England. I told him to just hang in there. We all had to talk to him at times. He’s a warrior. He wants to be out there.”

“He’s been the man on the team for all his life,” Rod Flowers added. “Now you get into this situation where you’re hurt. He was concerned that he couldn’t show what he could really do because he was hurt. He was a little bit down on that. I told him, ‘continued to say your prayers and in one minute you could be a Super Bowl champ. You’ve got to learn from it.’”

The 23-year-old focused on his rehab and was ready to go this offseason. He’s still doing pushups (he claims he could get to 70, but if he got there, he’d have to push for 30 more). This season, he’s playing 45.5 percent of the defensive snaps and has appeared in every game.

Even when times get tough, he remembers what it was like working on the construction site and how lucky he is to do what he does for a living.

“It’s the same thing. It’s not about complaining or feeling sorry for your circumstances,” Trey Flowers said. “You know you have older guys and guys that have established themselves. You have to work to be up there or work to get to where they’re at. I just think that’s important. A lot of guys, when I was at Arkansas, didn’t like the situation so they transferred, but that didn’t make them a better player. If you stand up to it and then work and work, then you become a better player.”

For Trey Flowers, that foundation was set a long time ago.

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