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Editor's Note: This story appears in the October 2009 Arizona issue of ESPN RISE Magazine
Whether he's on offense, defense or special teams, Millennium (Goodyear, Ariz.) senior Marquis Flowers must be accounted for at all times. And if he isn't, well, let's just say your football team is going to be as successful as a relationship between Terrell Owens and his quarterback.
Though free safety is his primary position on defense, teams have to locate Flowers before every snap because he can effortlessly shift to linebacker or corner. Offensively, he makes most of his plays running the ball, but he can also swing out for a key reception. And opponents had better get a blocker on him on special teams or they'll be getting their kicks sent right back the other way.
"He can pretty much line up anywhere he wants to and make something happen," says Agua Fria head coach Kelly Epley, who watched Flowers rush for 134 yards and block a punt in a Millennium victory over his Owls last year.
Flowers has been making it happen in all facets of the game since first donning a varsity uniform as a sophomore. Considered the top all-around player in the state and one of the best recruits in the nation, the 6-foot-3, 205-pounder has received scholarship offers from the likes of Arizona State, Arizona, USC, Oregon, Notre Dame and Michigan.
The majority of those programs project Flowers at safety in college, though Notre Dame has offered him to play running back. Regardless of what position Flowers ends up playing at the next level, he's going to make an impact.
"I like safety because everything is in front of me and I can come up and make a big hit," he says.
But there are perks to carrying the ball as well. "I like running back because I can score touchdowns, get the girls and sell tickets," he adds.
After spending his entire ninth-grade year on the freshman team, Flowers earned a starting nod on varsity the following season. He played mostly at safety but also saw spot duty at running back.
As Millennium's youngest player that season, he was understandably nervous in his varsity debut against Buckeye. To make matters worse, Buckeye put him to the test right away by throwing in his direction, hoping to exploit his inexperience.
That's when Flowers went from intimidated underclassman to unflinching playmaker. On one pass, he made a great read on the ball and got his hands on it, juggling it a few times before securing it for his first career interception.
"I was so scared when the ball was coming my way," Flowers admits. "I caught it kind of funny. I was like, 'Uh-oh.' I just had to suck it up and make a play."
|Marquis Flowers is considering USC, Notre Dame and UCLA amongst others.|
He added two touchdown runs in the game to help lead the Tigers to a 14-7 victory. The performance gave him a much-needed confidence boost, and he continued to provide game-changing moments throughout the season.
"He has the natural ability to make big plays," Millennium second-year head coach Curtis Mays says.
Later in his sophomore season during a game against Queen Creek, Flowers recorded a sack, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery all on the same play, and Millennium went on to kick a field goal on its ensuing possession. Then in the same game, he blocked a punt out of the end zone for a safety, which made the score 5-0 and keyed the Tigers'15-7 win.
On the punt block, Flowers wasn't even supposed to rush the punter. But he saw an opportunity that was too good to pass up.
"I jumped perfect off the ball," Flowers says. "The guy who was going after me opened up his body and I cut inside. The ball wasn't even in the punter's hands, so I just went for it."
The next day in film session, then-head coach Mark Smith told Flowers to stick with his assignments moving forward but also congratulated him for coming through during a critical juncture.
"I'll never forget that play," says Smith, who's now the head coach at Moon Valley. "We needed something, and special kids come up with big plays when you need something."
Flowers finished the season with 76 tackles, three sacks, one interception, five passes deflected and two blocked kicks. Last year, Flowers took a more prominent role on the offensive side of the ball. After getting only four carries as a sophomore, he toted the rock 131 times en route to 932 yards and eight scores as a junior. He added six receptions for 139 yards.
Flowers continued to thrive on defense as well, recording 87 tackles, three interceptions and a sack. He added three blocked punts and a blocked field-goal attempt on special teams to earn a spot on the All-State second team. Meanwhile, Millennium went 9-3 and was edged by Peoria, 33-27, in the second round of the Class 4A, Division I state playoffs.
Flowers credits film study and offseason workouts with preparing him for so many roles on the gridiron. He spent four days a week this past summer lifting, running and performing position-specific drills. As an elite recruit, Flowers understands there are great expectations for him this season.
"I'm trying to take hold of this leadership role -- trying to give the younger guys someone to follow, someone to look up to," he says. "[And if] they need a play, I'll get 'em a play."
No matter what position he's playing.
Jon Mahoney covers high school sports for ESPN RISE Magazine.