Tre Flowers, a converted cornerback who played safety during his playing days at Oklahoma State, spent his NFL debut for the Seattle Seahawks on Thursday night lining up opposite an offense that featured a renewed Andrew Luck.
For most of the first half at CenturyLink Field — during which Flowers played every defensive snap — he tracked a six-year veteran in Indianapolis receiver T.Y. Hilton.
Did any of this daunt the 23-year-old rookie? Not really. He got the jitters out and started competing.
“Before the game I was pretty nervous, but everybody was talking to me,” Flowers said. “All of my teammates were talking to me, calming me down. The first play I felt pretty comfortable, and I just kept going one play at a time.”
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Flowers, a fifth-round pick, got his first chance starting at right corner earlier this week during preseason camp. He started filling in for injured veteran Byron Maxwell (hip flexor) on Tuesday.
In front of a crowd of 68,418 in Thursday night’s 19-17 preseason loss to the Colts, Flowers played all 34 snaps at the position in the first half. The ball was thrown in his direction just four times, resulting in one pass interference call, two catches for short gains and a deep incompletion he knocked down in the end zone. He also chipped in two tackles.
“It’s very different,” Flowers said of his transition to cornerback. “It’s a lot more technical. You’ve always got somebody in front of you, and this defense you’re always going to be in somebody’s face, so you’ve got to stay true to your technique and just really believe in it.”
Seahawks coach Pete Carroll was plenty impressed with the rookie’s debut.
“I can’t wait to see the film,” Carroll said. “He was out there for the entire half, playing football. I thought he did well.
“He had the one penalty with great coverage. He was there. I think he grabbed him when he didn’t even have to do it to make the play. We’ll be able to really teach from that. Stayed up on top of the deep ball, down in the end zone. I thought a pretty good first outing.”
Flowers said he wished he could get the PI call back. Late in the first quarter, he got a hand in front of a pass from Luck to Hilton, but wrapped his arm around Hilton’s back, drawing the call.
“He gave me a little move. I felt like I was on top. I tried to come underneath, make a play but I kind of had my arm wrapped around him,” Flowers said. “College move, but in the big leagues now. You can’t do it.”
Apart from the one penalty, Flowers said he felt he played well, but like Carroll wanted to watch the tape, evaluate what he can improve on, and build on what he did well.
Both of his open-field tackles limited what could have been big gains by the Colts. And his coverage of Deon Cain in the end zone with seconds remaining in the second quarter likely saved a touchdown.
“I kind of felt the ball was coming toward me and just stayed true to my technique,” Flowers said. “One play at a time is what I wanted to do today, and I feel like I did.”
Flowers has the potential to be the second Seahawks rookie in two years to earn a starting role at cornerback. Shaquill Griffin, who shifted to left cornerback this season after Richard Sherman’s departure, did the same last year.
But winning a starting job isn’t Flowers’ immediate priority — he just wants to play again next week, and in the weeks after.
“It’s a new city, new position and new team,” Flowers said. “I’m just trying to get better every day and make this team. I’m not thinking about starting or anything, just pushing to be the best I can be.”
During the brief moments he left the playing field in the first half, Flowers thought of his 1-year-old daughter Bailee.
“It’s crazy. I was thinking about it on the sideline,” he said. “It’s a blessing. It’s amazing just getting this far. I hope she remembers it.”