Chiefs rookie shares special relationship with veteran corner
With Patrick Surtain on one side and Brandon Flowers on the other, cornerback will be a family affair in Kansas City, and something Flowers can hardly believe.
When Flowers was growing up in South Florida, his first cousin married Surtain’s brother. About the same time, Surtain became a star cornerback at Miami and the two got to know each other at Christmas parties and other family get-togethers. Surtain started leaving tickets for Flowers to Dolphins games.
Now more than a decade later, Surtain, who was traded to the Chiefs in 2005, is still going strong. He’s one of the league’s most respected veteran defensive backs. Flowers, drafted in the third round out of Virginia Tech, is the leading candidate to replace Ty Law and join Surtain in Kansas City’s secondary.
“I wouldn’t have believed it. But here we are,” said Flowers. “He’s still making plays and I’m still trying to learn from him.”
As the years rolled by and the two maintained a close relationship, Surtain established himself as one of the most solid cornerbacks in the NFL, while his young admirer proved a top defensive back in college.
Surtain called defensive backs coach David Gibbs before the draft in April to make sure the Chiefs were keeping a close eye on his confident, hard-hitting family member, who intercepted 10 passes for the Hokies.
Indeed, they were. Law had been one of the finest cornerbacks of his era, but he had virtually disappeared in 2007, his skills drained by injury and time. Finding a replacement was a top priority.
“I was on the phone with coach Gibbs, and he said there might be a chance we could get him,” said Surtain.
Watching the draft unfold a couple of weeks later, Surtain’s excitement grew as Flowers stayed on the board and Kansas City’s turn in the third round drew near.
“I was like, ‘Oh man, we can’t pass on him,”’ said Surtain. “We needed a corner, and he was the best player out there.”
Flowers, 22, has never lacked confidence. When he announced he would go pro after his junior year he said the college game “has become too slow for me.”
“Well, it’s definitely sped up a lot now,” he said with a grin. “Everybody’s smarter, faster, more physical. But this is what I wanted, and this is what I’m getting. I’ve got to keep working hard.”
Not only is Flowers trying to take Law’s old position, he’s also wearing Law’s No. 24.
“A number’s a number,” Flowers said. “Ty Law’s a totally different person, a great corner. He should be in the Hall of Fame. I’m not trying to be in anybody’s shadow. This is just my high school number. That’s why I got it.”
He and Surtain are rooming together in camp, and the younger man hardly gives his elder any peace. On the field, at dinner and in the evening, the rookie tries to hone his skills.
“He asks good questions,” said Surtain, a two-time Pro Bowler. “He’s a very smart player. He takes tremendous notes. He wants it. He’s a guy who gets it. Even though he’s a rookie, he carries himself around like a vet, and it shows on the practice field.”
Flowers is the betting favorite in the race to replace Law, but not a lock. Among the young cornerbacks battling for playing time are rookie Brandon Carr, a fifth-round pick from Grand Valley State, and Tyrone Brackenridge, a second-year man who played in 13 games as a rookie.
“We’re very young, but we’re talented,” said Surtain. “Brackenridge has been making plays every single day.”
Flowers acknowledges that having Surtain’s ear has been a help.
“When coach goes over something, Pat will go through it with me. He’ll take a play and break it down for me so smooth. It’s really been a great transition with the help of Pat.
“When I came up for a visit to Kansas City before the draft, he told me, ‘Wouldn’t it be crazy if we played with each other in the secondary?’ And that’s what happened. It came true.”