FOXBOROUGH — The running joke currently amusing Patriots defensive players comes at the expense of defensive lineman Trey Flowers, who can’t seem to escape the nickname recently bestowed upon him by assistant coach and defensive play-caller Brian Flores.
“The Quiet Storm” doesn’t quite roll off the tongue — hard to imagine walking up to someone with a casual, “Hey Quiet Storm, how’s it going?” — yet that hasn’t stopped Flowers’s teammates from making sure to use the new moniker nearly every time they see him, gleefully interrupting interviews or conversations. That’s how it goes in the locker room, where any opportunity to needle one another is not simply welcomed but exploited.
When Flores shared the nickname during a conference call with reporters and it showed up as a caption to a Flowers photo on the team’s official Instagram account a day later, it was open season on a player who may already go by one nickname (“Trey” honors his being the third-generation Robert Flowers in the family) but who seems particularly well-suited for the other.
He is relatively quiet. And he plays with the energy of an oncoming storm. And as the Patriots exit the bye week and rev up for the crucial remaining six games (beginning Sunday against the Jets), they do so behind the example of Flowers, one of their most consistent, dominant, and versatile defensive players, a fourth-year pro who undoubtedly is headed toward a lucrative free-agent offseason, but who remains squarely focused on making this another Super Bowl-winning one first.
“Coming here, I obviously knew who he was from watching the games, but not a ton about him as a player,” said teammate Jason McCourty, who joined his brother Devin in the Patriots defensive backfield this season. “And then you get here and see the impact that he has, not only in his play but how he carries himself.
“You see a guy like Dev who’s always talking, a loud guy, and Trey’s a guy you don’t always hear from, but when he does say something, it sticks with you.
“[The nickname] makes a lot of sense. I remember when I first got here, Trey always had his headphones on and I’m like, ‘Damn, he doesn’t talk at all.’ And then when you kind of get to know him a little more, you see he does talk, and laughs and jokes a lot.
“He represents what we want to be as a defense, a guy that does more with his play than with his mouth and a tough guy that whatever is asked of him — setting the edge against the run game or getting pressure on the quarterback — he’s able to be versatile.”
So there’s Jason exiting the locker room alongside Devin, the two of them making sure to drop a few “Quiet Storms” as they stroll past Flowers’s interview, jokes that make the 6-foot-4-inch, 270-pound Flowers merely nod to the heavens in embarrassment.
“I didn’t know about the nickname, but I do feel as though it’s one of those things that it does fit my personality,” he said. “I don’t say much, just put my head down. Anytime I am saying something, it’s obviously something that needs to be said. I guess people appreciate the words a little bit more than saying, ‘Nah, he’s just talking.’ I think it’s just describes who I am.”
And who is Flowers? Well, he’s an Alabama native who played football for Arkansas, the only Southeastern Conference school that offered him a scholarship out of high school. He’s the seventh child of nine siblings ranging in age from 35 to 14, the father of a toddler girl of his own.
He’s the young man who tested the draft pool as a junior at Arkansas, elected to return after earning a third-round grade, but wasn’t selected until the fourth round in 2015. He’s the NFL rookie who missed all but one game of his first professional season, going on injured reserve with a shoulder injury after Week 1, the most games he’d missed in a season since playing his first one at age 7.
He’s a 25-year-old driven by all of those factors to be the best he can possibly be at this game, a quiet storm who has learned to use any of those past disappointments as motivation for future success, to look to his large, supportive family for a reason to be his best.
“It’s one of those deals, obviously, you’ve got that in the back of your mind,” he said. “I’m happy where I’m at, with the journey, and appreciate the journey, but you always remember times like that that kind of take you to a place as far as aggression.
“You want to prove people wrong; you want to prove yourself right. You take yourself to a place — that’s what fuels me as far as my aggression out there — there’s nothing wrong with a little extra bit of motivation.”
Flowers might not be the most well-known defensive lineman ready to hit the open market, but he has drawn consistent praise from those who see him most, or those who have to prepare to play him. From opposing coaches Mike Vrabel and Matt Nagy to his own coaches Bill Belichick and Flores, Flowers’s ability to affect plays from any spot on the line, his ability to set a hard edge or pressure the quarterback have set him apart.
“I think it’s very noticeable when he’s not out there for us,” Devin McCourty said. “I think his energy . . . he’s one of the guys that is a technician in everything he does, whether that’s in the run game, in the pass game. He’s versatile in that he can play inside for us, he can play outside, he can stand up on the edge and cover at times.
“He’s just one of those guys that I think when he’s not in our defense, we really lose a lot. He’s a great player and he’s quietly one of our best leaders because he does everything by example.”
In other words, a (dare we say it?) quiet storm.
“You don’t hear much from him, but he’s been a warrior for us and he’s played lights-out for us, really, since he’s gotten here,” Flores said. “Everyone in the building respects him. He leads by example.”