As South Florida prepared to play South Carolina in the Birmingham Bowl, junior quarterback Quinton Flowers was primarily focused on the task of facing the Gamecocks. Even though he was going up against one of the SEC’s best defenses, it would be nothing compared to the challenges he faced growing up in Miami.
Flowers was born December 2, 1994, the son of Nathaniel and Nancy Flowers. At age seven, Flowers’s life was forever changed when his dad was killed in a drive-by shooting. As Flowers rose to become one of the best players in Florida at Miami Jackson High, tragedy struck again. His mother died of cancer while during his junior year. And few days prior to his first start as at South Florida, his stepbrother was shot in Miami.
However, through all of the tragedy Flowers was able to become an elite quarterback. Had over 6,000 yards passing and 2,000 yards rushing in his high school career. He was rated a 4-star quarterback by Scout.com and received offers from powerhouses like Alabama, Nebraska, Florida, Texas, Miami and Tennessee. However, none of these schools wanted him as a quarterback. So Quinton decided to attend the University of South Florida, where he would be given the chance to compete at the position. As a freshman in Tampa he played in only five games, starting one. He threw for 111 yards on the season with no touchdowns and two interceptions. He rushed for 79 yards and no touchdowns.
As a sophomore, Flowers became the starter and his career took off. He set a new school record for passing touchdowns in a season, with 22, and only threw eight interceptions. He had 34 total touchdowns to set a new program record in that category. He led the offense to a school record 5,741 yards of total offense. He capped off the year by being named team MVP after the Bulls went 8-5 and earned a bid to the Miami Beach Bowl.
The 2016 year started out fast. Flowers broke the school record for rushing yards in a year, with 1,425. He also broke the record for total yards with 3,976. He finished 3rd in the FBS in yards per carry (8.05) and was named American Athletic Conference Offensive Player of the Year.
In the Birmingham Bowl, he ran for two touchdowns in the first quarter, including one where he reversed field twice and escaped numerous defenders. Flowers finished 161 yards through the air and 105 yards on the ground. On the first play of overtime he launched a 25-yard game-winning touchdown to Elkanah Dillon.
After the game, I got the chance to interview Flowers. I asked him about what helped him through all of his adversity to get where he is now. He said, “My team helps me. Especially when you're away from home, away from your family. Every time I take the field they bring a smile to my face. When I take the field each game I take the field for them.” Even though he could have quit on several occasions, Flowers kept on playing football—which has paid off for both him and the South Florida Bulls.
Photo credit: Michael Wade/Icon Sportswire/Getty Images