Rising senior Trey Flowers wasn’t allowed to participate in team scrimmages this spring.
While he did take part in drills in practices throughout spring ball, the Razorback coaching staff limited the All-Southeastern Conference defensive end to watching from the sideline and serving as a mentor to the younger defensive linemen.
It’s the price Flowers is willing to pay for bypassing the NFL Draft to return to school and anchor a defensive line looking to move forward without Chris Smith and two other seniors.
While Flowers found the “star treatment” odd at first, catching flack from teammates early in the process, he now admits the decision was truly in his best interest.
“At first I really didn’t know what to do because I felt like I needed to do something,” Flowers said. “But I understand the reasoning behind it. I see the risk behind (playing in the scrimmages).”
The move was designed for Arkansas’ younger defensive linemen to get more work to prepare them and help them be SEC-ready by the time fall camp rolls around.
“It’s an opportunity for another guy to step up and get those reps,” defensive line coach Rory Segrest said. “You know, Trey has been out there for the most part. We held him out of a couple of scrimmages, but like I said, those younger guys are jumping in and taking those reps and coming along.”
Flowers received a third-round draft grade for the upcoming NFL Draft from the Draft Advisory Board, and in January announced his return to Fayetteville for his final season. He turned down a projected four-year, $2.5 million rookie contract for one more season with the Razorbacks.
The senior says he still has goals to accomplish on and off the field at Arkansas, including graduation and helping the football program continue to move in the right direction. But it was Bielema’s history of player development that ultimately led Flowers to return.
“It was very impactful,” Flowers said of Bielema’s track record factoring in to his decision. “I know his track record with J.J. Watt and just all around putting people in the league. I knew he knew what was the best thing for me, so whatever he suggested I took into account very wisely.”
Flowers received the third-round grade after a junior season in which he recorded five sacks and 13.5 tackles for loss, pushing his three-year total to 32 and moving into 11th place all-time in Arkansas football history in that category.
But before he landed in the record books at Arkansas, the senior from Huntsville, Ala., flew mostly under the radar out of Columbia High School. Arkansas was Flowers’ only SEC offer. The only in-state offer he received was from Alabama-Birmingham, and even Flowers will admit it put a chip on his shoulder.
Never was that more apparent than Arkansas’ 24-7 win at Auburn in 2012. Flowers earned SEC Defensive Lineman of the Week for his 3.5 sack performance against his home-state team.
Fast forward two years and now Flowers is the unquestioned leader of the Razorback defense, taking on new leadership responsibilities under Segrest and defensive coordinator Robb Smith.
And the usually quiet, mild-mannered Flowers has done well leading a young and inexperienced group of defensive linemen this spring.
“Trey’s real professional in his attitude and the way he carries himself,” Segrest said. “He details his work and he wants to go in and be a leader by example. He’s not a real vocal, rah-rah guy. He just goes in and does his job and makes sure he does it the best he can.”
Flowers, who has played under three different head coaches and four defensive coordinators in his time at Arkansas, has instilled complete confidence in the current coaching staff and the direction of the program.
As he reflects back on all he’s been through this spring with his decision, Flowers is convinced staying in school another year will pay dividends.
“I think I made the best decision, just to come back and have that experience under my belt and just continue to grow and learn under the new defensive line coach (Segrest),” Flowers admitted. “He had a lot of experience in the NFL, so just to learn and gain knowledge from him was a good decision.”