Pete Carroll, John Schneider recap a remarkable third day of Seahawks’ draft
Tre Flowers played safety at Oklahoma State. The Seahawks just drafted him to play cornerback, because he fits their prototype for one (long arms and body).
Flowers' imminent switch in the defensive secondary and adjusting to life in the NFL will begin in rookie minicamp Friday through Sunday. His head will be spinning at all that is new: his city, coaches, teammates, life. Those challenges aren't exactly going to faze him, though.
He's been through so much more.
He's been through seeing his father in a coma and nearly dying.
Flowers was a redshirt sophomore for undefeated and fourth-ranked Oklahoma State in late November 2015. He was preparing for a top-10 showdown with Baylor. Two days before the game, just as his parents were readying for their regular drive from their San Antonio-area home to Stillwater to see their son play again, his father, Rodney Flowers, had his bones and his life shattered.
Driving his motorcycle on his way home from work as an MRI technician, a car suddenly pulled out in front of Flowers' father. The force of his impact with the car catapulted him off the bike through the air. As detailed in a 2016 story in The Oklahoman, Rodney Flowers broke his leg and ankle, dislocated a shoulder, had severe injuries to his abdomen and bladder and completely ruined his pelvis.
The Oklahoman reported doctors put him in a medically-induced coma. Doctors initially gave him a 50-50 chance of survival.
Instead of getting what had become a weekly call from his dad that he and his mother were on their way to see him play, Tre got an urgent call from his mother, Crystal.
His mother told him his father had been in a bad accident. Flowers could hear responding police officers talking to his aunt over the phone. He didn't need to be home to know how serious the situation was. He could hear it in his mother's voice.
Mom told him not to come home, because it's an 8-1/2-hour drive from Stillwater to San Antonio. So he spent an interminable night in Stillwater. He credits his Oklahoma State position coach, Tim Duffie, for racing to him and staying with him all that night.
"The rest of my life, I will always have love for Coach Duffie," Flowers told the Oklahoma State Athletics' website in 2016.
The next day, Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy solved the issue of Flowers' long drive home. He and his staff checked with compliance officers and ensured it was permitted by the NCAA, then they arranged to put Flowers on a private jet to fly to Texas. By 8 a.m. that Friday, a son was seeing a father in a way no one should.
Tre broke down when he arrived at the hospital. He saw his father in his critical state, and his mother devastated.
"It was hard, seeing my mom like that, seeing my family like that," Flowers told OSU Athletics, fighting back tears eight months later. "Words won't describe it.
"(Football) was the furthest thing from my mind."
Yet after that Friday in Texas, his mother encouraged Tre to play in the following day's game back in Stillwater. He broke up a pass and was all over the field against Baylor. Oklahoma State lost the game — but gained a ton of respect for its defensive back and his heart.
The feeling was mutual.
"I played with a heavy heart that game," Flowers told OSU Athletics. "Unfortunately we didn't win the game. But to have that to rely on, that they are going to support you no matter what, it's great. I'll always remember everybody on the team.
"I'll love them forever, too."
Tre's dad's condition stabilized while his son was playing that day, but he stayed in the coma for a month. When his dad came out of the coma, he watched replays of Tre's games he missed. He told his son he couldn't believe Tre played so well given the circumstances, especially against Baylor.
His father eventually left in-patient hospital care but was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and needed more surgeries. He's been working through those the last couple years, as his son finished off an All-Big 12 season in 2017 for the Cowboys. Tre earned Oklahoma State's Leslie O’Neal Award as it outstanding defensive player.
Last weekend when the Seahawks called to draft him in the fifth round, Flowers and his dad had been playing video games at the family home in Texas. That was to get their mind off waiting three days for that call, and to capture moments he once feared he'd get again with his dad.
Yes, the 22-year-old Tre has gained a new appreciation and perspective on life, and football's place in it.
He and his girlfriend Breshae Monroe have a 1-year-old daughter. Flowers was being a dad with Bailee when Seahawks general manager John Schneider and coach Pete Carroll called him Saturday to tell him they were drafting him.
“I was in my kitchen, making my daughter something to eat," he said Saturday.
Seattle had conducted a private workout with Flowers in Stillwater weeks before the draft. That's when the Seahawks confirmed he had the skills and size to convert from safety to the type of cornerback they covet.
Flowers keeps Carroll's and Schneider's streak of drafting cornerbacks with a certain length. Flowers' arms measured 33 7/8 inches at the league's scouting combine in March. All nine of the cornerbacks Carroll and Schneider have drafted for the Seahawks in nine years have had arms at least 32 inches long.
Flowers said the last time he played cornerback was during Oklahoma State's practices in December for its bowl game.
"I had a package with it, but they never called it," he said.
“They said they were going to play me at corner. Start things off at corner. They like the way I move. They think I have the feet for it.”
The Seahawks have also never drafted a cornerback before the third round. They've drafted two previous ones in round five: Richard Sherman in 2011 and Tharold Simon in 2013.
Flowers is the same height as Sherman at 6-3. Flowers' arms are nearly two inches longer that the three-tine All-Pro cornerback's. Sherman ran a 4.56 40-yard dash at the combine seven years ago. Flowers ran a 4.45 40 at the combine last month.
Now Flowers joins a Seahawks team that needs a long-term successor to Sherman at left cornerback; Seattle waived Sherman and his $11 million salary in March. Veteran Byron Maxwell, 30, re-signed on Tuesday, but only for one year. He's the stop-gap option.
Flowers, eight years younger than Maxwell, has a chance at something more. And like many aspects of his life now, he appreciates it.
“This is a guy that I really liked," Carroll said. "He’s played over three years as a starter at Oklahoma State at free safety. I’ve had a chance, and John has too, we’ve seen him play a lot of stuff. A lot of situations, a lot of different aspects of the game that he’s handled well. He’s been a really good contributor there. The fact that he’s over 6-3 and that he runs 4.4 and that he’s got great length and good ball skills and he’s a good tackler and works hard at the game, in general. He had a great workout with our scouts. That workout showed us some of the change of direction stuff that would apply at the cornerback position.
"We want to give him a shot at that — and that just happens to be one of our favorite attempts. We’re going to take a guy from a different spot and move him and we’ll see how he does knowing that he’s going to be a really good contributor on special teams.
"The ball sense that he has and the awareness that he has, this kid is going to be really exciting to watch."