Once a Rams fans, Marquis Flowers joined Pats team that broke his heart

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- When the New England Patriots traded a seventh-round draft choice to the Cincinnati Bengals for linebacker Marquis Flowers on Aug. 29, they essentially filled four spots with one move.

As a core special teams player, the 6-foot-3, 250-pound Flowers is on the punt coverage, punt return, kickoff coverage and kickoff return units. He’s quickly made an impression on coach Bill Belichick.

“I’ve really been impressed with him,” Belichick said. “He’s been good to work with and he improves every single day. He’s very professional, takes his job seriously, tries to get better, understands there are things that are new that he has to make adjustments to, but he’s worked hard to make those. It’s been good.”

Flowers, 25, notched his first special-teams tackle for the Patriots in Sunday’s win over the New Orleans Saints. The native of Phoenix had caught the Patriots’ eye in past Patriots-Bengals matchups with his work on special teams.

Now on the Patriots’ side, Flowers shares his “football journey”:

When he first started playing football: “When I was 8 years old, Pop Warner and stuff like that. I begged my dad to play, starting right with tackle [football]. He let me play and ever since then, I’ve loved the game.”

Favorite teams and players growing up: “I was a big-time St. Louis Rams fan. Marshall Faulk, Torry Holt, all those guys. They were the team. Playing video games, getting hooked, Marshall Faulk was on the cover. I was pretty hurt when they lost to the Patriots [in Super Bowl XXXVI]. Defensively, I liked Ray Lewis, Bob Sanders, Ed Reed, guys like that.”

Role models growing up: “Obviously my parents. Outside of them, my favorite player of all time is Kobe Bryant.”

Favorite football memories at Millenium (Ariz.) High: “Playing running back, scoring touchdowns, being in a situation where the team really needs you as a two-way player. That was a lot of fun, we were winning. We came together when we lost. I miss the guys; those are all your friends you’re playing with.”

Enrolling at University of Arizona: “I had been a big Oklahoma Sooner fan, and I was definitely a [Bob] Stoops fan. I was one of those guys who was never really out of Arizona, I’m a young guy, and U of A was the perfect fit for me. It wasn’t too close to home. Wasn’t too far. The strength and conditioning coach, Coach Ed [Corey Edmond], Coach [Mike] Stoops, Tim Kish, the guys that recruited me. It felt right. I don’t regret it at all. I love U of A. I’m glad I went there, I’m glad I went through what I went through to get here. It just makes the story more sweet.”

Top football memories in college: “How it started. U of A was one of the schools that didn’t really offer me anything right off the bat. I had to go in there and work for it, and I like that a lot. The strength and conditioning coach was always on me. Just getting better from the time -- freshman year you’re on the team, you’re good, with Nick Foles; and then sophomore year, a down year and Coach Stoops got fired and you’re thinking ‘Am I really going to play in the NFL? Am I really good enough?’ Then Rich Rod [Rich Rodriguez] comes in and changes the whole thing. Next thing you know … just the growth, coming in as an 18-year-old kid and leaving as a man ready to take on other men in the sport.”

Selected by the Bengals in the sixth round of the 2014 draft: “It was a great feeling. It doesn’t matter if it’s round one or round seven. I was just thankful to Cincinnati for taking the chance on me. That’s a day I’ll never forget.”

Recollections of his three seasons with the Bengals: “It was a learning experience. I learned from a lot of the players, a lot of the veterans, and now I’m wiser -- on the field, off the field, how to take care of my body, that stuff. Just becoming a professional. The special-teams coach, Darrin Simmons, I learned a lot of rules, situations. He’s one of the great special-teams coaches.”

Getting traded to the Patriots: “When I found out I was coming here, it was like, ‘Let’s go, this is what I need.’ Players talk around the league. We know how New England works hard. We know what they require from players as professionals. So coming here, it was like, ‘It’s time to go. It’s time to get right.’ It was definitely a nervous experience. I’ve never been traded before. Coming into a new thing, I had to jump in and go fast, but that’s part of being a professional.”

What he loves about football: “It’s a violent sport. You’re legally allowed to hit someone as hard as you can. You have to love that. And I just love everything about the game -- the team, the camaraderie it builds. When I was growing up, it kept me out of trouble, kept me occupied. It taught me how to respect authority. And it brings a whole bunch of guys from a bunch of different places together.”

Summing up his football journey: “Resilient. I had a ‘refuse to lose’ attitude and defeated odds. I’ve been places where things weren’t going my way, but I kept a positive attitude. I just always kept pushing.”