South Florida’s football team is making noise this season, but they haven’t always been this dominant. From 2011-14, the Bulls finished with a record of 14-34.
The Bulls’ turnaround centers around quarterback Quinton Flowers. Flowers has been winning ever since he was named the starting quarterback. Now a senior, Flowers has the Bulls looking better than ever.
The path to stardom was not easy for Flowers. In fact, he almost quit football entirely in high school. Most people have a difficult time with one death in their family. Flowers has had four, the most recent being his aunt before the Bulls’ game against Stony Brook last month. How has Flowers made it this far?
“Faith in God,” Flowers said. “Just trying to go day by day, one at a time, not trying to move too fast.”
Flowers made a name for himself at Miami Jackson High School (FL). He was known as one of the top athletes in Florida as a four-star recruit who had a 4.4-40 time.
As a sophomore, Flowers threw for 2,151 yards and ran for another 562. In his junior year, he passed for 1,712 yards and 17 touchdowns and rushed for 631 yards and 10 touchdowns. Things were looking good for Flowers. Then later in January, he received some awful news.
Flowers lost his mother to cancer. He had already lost his father when he was 7 in a drive-by shooting. Now an orphan, he moved in with his uncle’s family and decided to quit football.
When his coach, Antonio Brown, heard Flowers’ decision, he challenged him to reconsider quitting.
“If your mom and dad were here,” Brown said, “Would you quit? Would you give up?” Flowers said no. “So why give up now? You know your mom is still watching down on you. She’s watching every move that you make.”
Those comments stuck in Flowers’ head. He returned to the team and finished his high school career on a high note. He threw for 1,349 yards and ran for 641 yards and 10 touchdowns.
Flowers passed for 6,042 yards and rushed for another 2,002 yards and 32 touchdowns in his high school years. He had offers from plenty of prestigious schools, including Alabama, Nebraska, Florida, Miami (Fla.) and Texas. Despite having the opportunity to play at a power five school, Flowers decided he was going to be the guy at South Florida.
“Everybody always wants to go to Alabama or LSU to just be another guy,” Flowers said. “Why not be that guy? That’s the reason I came to the University of South Florida, just to be that guy and make a change.”
Flowers already changed Miami Jackson and took them to the state semifinals, which is the farthest they have ever gotten. He turned their program around and wanted to do the same at South Florida.
“I like to be a difference maker,” he said. “I don’t like to be a follower. I set my own path and try to start my own legacy no matter what I do.”
South Florida turnaround
Flowers arrived at South Florida after the Bulls finished 2-10, the worst season in school history. Flowers and head coach Willie Taggart definitely had their work cut out for them.
It was a rough first season for Flowers. He had limited action his freshman year, appearing in five games with one start. His brother also died in a shooting just days before his first start, the third death in his family.
The Bulls finished 4-8. It was slightly better than the year before, but Flowers definitely had bigger plans for this team than four wins.
The next season, Flowers took control as the starting quarterback and did not disappoint. He passed for 2,296 yards and 22 touchdowns while running for another 991 yards and 12 touchdowns. Better yet, the Bulls finished with a winning record of 8-5 and made it to the Miami Beach Bowl. They ended up losing 45-35 to Western Kentucky, but Flowers had 381 total yards and three touchdowns in that game.
What exactly changed for the Bulls? Flowers believes it was a matter of wanting to compete and giving it their all.
“I want to win. I’ll do whatever it takes to win,” Flowers said. “I felt like there was more that I could do, there was more that I could give. I felt like I was giving it all, but we still didn’t come out on top.”
Flowers decided to put more time in the film room to study opponents and figure out how the offense was going to score every chance they got. Flowers felt like they could get to another bowl the next season and wanted to guarantee a victory.
The Bulls continued winning, finishing 11-2. Flowers had his best season yet with 2,812 passing yards and 24 touchdowns and also rushed for 1,530 yards and 18 touchdowns. The Bulls also made it to another bowl, this time the Birmingham Bowl to face the South Carolina Gamecocks. Flowers didn’t plan on losing this one.
“Every time we got the ball, the only thing that was going through my mind was we have to score every time we get on the field,” Flowers said. “You have to come away with some points. You can’t leave the field punting the ball.”
The Bulls put up 39 points in regulation, but so did the Gamecocks. Flowers threw a touchdown pass on the first play in overtime to give the Bulls a 46-39 lead. The defense forced a fourth down and came up with a sack to end the game with a win.
Taggart left after the season to take the head coaching job at Oregon. The Bulls got a great replacement with Charlie Strong though. Strong was very familiar with Flowers as he was recruited him when he coached at Louisville.
The Bulls are off to a 5-0 start this season and look better than ever. Flowers has some ideas for how he’d like to finish out this season.
“My ideal way would be going undefeated, make sure we beat UCF, get into a bowl game, win, go to the senior bowl, meet new people, just the whole nine yards. Everything you want to do as a senior,” Flowers said. “There’s a lot of things that I want for my senior year. I got it all out there in front of me, I just have to take it one day at a time.”
Flowers will also be leaving the Bulls after this season with his name all over the record books. He has set the school records for career rushing and total touchdowns and the single season record for passing touchdowns, rushing touchdowns, rushing yards, total offensive yards and total touchdowns. And there is still time to set more.
A winning football program, a bowl win, broken records, just as Flowers had planned it.
“It was the reason I came to the University of South Florida, to put the school back on the map and put it back where it is supposed to be,” Flowers said.
Nobody would have blamed Flowers had he quit playing football back in high school. Losing one family member is hard enough. Those tragedies forced him to mature faster than other kids. Flowers gets through life by doing what he believes his parents would want him to.
“It’s a lot of tragedy that I go through,” he said. “I just think about what would they want me to be doing? What would they be doing if they were here? What would they tell me? I just try to go by that everyday and try to stay focused.”
Flowers understands not all is right with the world, but has learned to have faith in the difficult times that things will work out.
“Everything is not going to go your way,” he said. “Everything is not going to be right because that is the way our world is. But at the end of the day, just pray to God and have faith, and he will figure everything out for you.”
Featured image by Logan Bowles-USA TODAY Sports
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