After checking into the team hotel at the beginning of training camp, Seahawks rookie cornerback Tre Flowers noticed that his room had a full-length mirror. This was very good news.
The fifth-round pick out of Oklahoma State was excited about this development, not because he was worried about being able to check how he looked before leaving in the morning, but because it made for a handy practice tool.
As a former safety trying to make the switch to cornerback, Flowers discovered that the mirror was helpful for practicing his stance and the kick-step technique Seattle has its cornerbacks use when playing press coverage.
"They blessed me with a long mirror, so I stand in the mirror working on my stance," Flowers said with a laugh. "My stance is the most pivotal part of it. I helps me really step and kick, like Coach (Pete) Carroll is trying to teach me."
One time when Flowers was working on his technique, however, he was interrupted by Shaquill and Shaquem Griffin—Shaquem is his roommate during camp—and the twins had a good laugh at Flowers' expense.
"It is kind of funny watching it," Shaquem Griffin said. "Obviously if you are still in the learning process, you not going to do it right. So, when you see him do it and you know he's not doing it right, and then my brother shows him again. Of course, I'm not doing anything else but just going over my stuff, so I'm watching him, and I sometimes just laugh."
But what Flowers soon discovered is that Shaquill Griffin did the same thing as a rookie, and a bit of friendly rookie hazing aside, the second-year starting cornerback has been helping Flowers adjust to life in the NFL both on and off the field.
"Shaq used to do the same thing. They both walked in and saw it," Flowers said. "But Shaq is helping me a lot. Just outside of football, he helps out a lot. He's somebody I can talk to, and he gives me confidence, tells me to believe in myself. Shaq is somebody you talk to every day."
And Shaquill Griffin isn't the only person at Seahawks headquarters who has taken a special interest in the tall, lanky cornerback who is trying to adjust to a new position and life in the NFL at the same time. Dating back to rookie minicamp, and continuing into training camp, Carroll has spent a lot of time working with Flowers, a player in whom the head coach sees a lot of potential. And with Byron Maxwell and Neiko Thorpe both dealing with injuries, Flowers could very well find himself in the starting lineup when the Seahawks open preseason play Thursday night against the Indianapolis Colts.
"I'm really into it," Carroll said of helping develop Flowers. "From the day he got here, we were already starting on talking about our stuff and how we're doing it. He's been really receptive. He's been receptive mentally and also physically and his ability to make things look the way they're supposed to look. He's really on a good track right now. His background—all the background he had from playing, I love the background he had. For three and a half years, starting safety at (Oklahoma) State. They did a lot of stuff and he's been all over the field and he's tackled and he's blitzed and he's covered and he's done everything. All of that adds to his makeup and his background. He's very comfortable in different situations, whether it's man-to-man or zone as he gets moved around the field some. It's been really positive. He's got a long ways to go but everything looks really good."
As for what Carroll wants to see from Flowers Thursday night, he said, "I'm excited. He's going to get a chance to play a lot of ball. He just needs to be out there and play. He just needs to see what it's like and see what it feels like and come back play after play and series after series. He'll get a lot of work and I'm really excited for him. He's done a fantastic job. He's really bought in. He's made the transition to go to corner. Now we need to see—he's a feisty guy, so we need to see how that plays into it when he deals with the challenges that come your way at corner. I'm really impressed with him so far."
For Flowers, having a head coach take such a hands-on approach with him is exciting, but also a bit foreign. At Oklahoma State, Flowers played for Mike Gundy, a former quarterback whose focus is more on the offensive side of the ball, so it has been a pleasant surprise for Flowers to have Carroll so personally invested in his development.
"It's amazing," Flowers said. "It's actually kind of weird, because most head coaches are offensive coaches. But he comes and talks to me every day, and gives me something to focus on every day, and I do my best to do it…Anything he says, I'm going to do."
If Carroll is helping Flowers master technique and Griffin is helping him learn what it takes to be an NFL corner, then Brandon Marshall is helping teach Flowers what it's like to go against a big, elite receiver. Since Marshall began ramping up his work load last week, Flowers has tried to guard the six-time Pro-Bowler every time he has the chance. Marshall has gotten the best of Flowers on a few occasions, including a touchdown in last weekend's "mock game," but Flowers knows that going against a receiver as experienced as Marshall will help him in the long run.
"It's great," Flowers said. "I told him that every day he has his cleats on, I'm going to follow him: 'I want you, every time.' I know if I can cover him, I can cover anybody. He was one of the best in the league, and he's still a great player… He talks to me a lot. He tells me to believe in myself, gives me confidence. He tells me what works and what doesn't work. I'm still learning from the receivers and the DBs."
Yet as much as a fellow cornerback, a Super Bowl-winning head coach and a Pro-Bowl receiver are all contributing to Flowers' early success, the person driving him most to succeed right now, could be seen running around Wednesday, barely coming up to her father's knees. Like so many players with young children, Flowers is driven to succeed as much for the future of his 1-year-old daughter Bailee as he is for himself.
"She's my biggest motivation, knowing that I've got to provide for her," Flowers said. "I don't want her to grow up like I did. I'm not saying I had it bad, but I want to spoil her as much as I can. She's the biggest reason I'm doing this."