6-foot-3, 210-pound Goodyear (Ariz.) Millennium athlete Marquis Flowers gave Arizona one of the biggest commitments in the history of the UA program when he put on a Wildcats hat at the U.S. Army All-American Game, choosing Arizona over schools such as USC, Notre Dame, Nebraska, Oregon, Michigan and numerous others.
Flowers had the option to play for multiple national title contenders, but in the end felt that Arizona was the right fit for him.
"It was a hard decision but I just felt like I wanted to stay home," Flowers told GOAZCATS.com. "I felt like what (Mike) Stoops has done with the program is something I want to be a part of and it's just a place that I feel is best for me and where I can live for the next four years."
Rivals.com's 87th ranked prospect in the country and the top-rated player in the state of Arizona, Flowers gives UA a player that will almost definitely be considered the gem of the Wildcats' 2010 recruiting class.
However, as a college football fan growing up, if you asked Flowers what school he was going to, the answer to that question wouldn't have been Arizona.
"Growing up at one point I was a USC guy and I've always been an Oklahoma guy so I was very fond of the Stoops," Flowers said. "My favorite team was Oklahoma but around 8th grade I wanted to go to USC and then I realized it's not the place for me and it wasn't my best fit."
Often times in recruiting, kids will make the mistake of choosing the most prestigious school on their list rather than the place that truly fits them best.
For Flowers, distinguishing the difference between his favorite school growing up and the best place for him as a student-athlete was an important part of his recruitment.
"You can't go off the team you grew up rooting for," he said. "You have to go where you're happy and want to spend four years of your life. USC is a great school but with everything that's happening with them right now, even if I was going to go there, I probably would have decommitted. I think I made the right choice in going to Arizona."
Flowers has long been considered the state of Arizona's top 2010 prospect. However, unlike many players in his position that love the limelight of being so highly rated, Flowers kept a low profile with the media and didn't make his recruitment the circus that so many recruits of his caliber do on a yearly basis.
Instead of trying to take advantage of his ranking and in order to hype himself even more, Flowers used his reputation as the state's top player as further motivation.
"It's definitely an honor and something you have to live up to," he said. "It's a lot of pressure and of course everyone is going to have their opinion, but you've got to keep doing what you do best."
The four-star prospect ends his recruitment happy with how it played out.
"The recruiting process was tiring sometimes and it was fun when it first started but it got a little overwhelming," he said. "It's a process where I think everyone should wait it out but I don't think you should wait it out too long.
"It gets tiring and you want to focus on your senior year of high school because you're not going to have another one of them. I'm just happy that it's all over and I can finally focus on high school."
Flowers can also focus on his future school, the University of Arizona. He's kept a close eye on the program and has seen Arizona transform from irrelevancy to one of the up and coming schools in the country.
"I just like the way Stoops turned it around," Flowers said. "It's been an absolute turnaround. I like the coaching, the facilities are great, the players are great, it's just the place that fit me perfectly. The location is great and my parents can come watch my games so it was an all around good fit."
Besides all of those factors, Flowers also developed a close relationship with his recruiting coach, UA co-defensive coordinator and linebackers coach Tim Kish.
"Oh man, I like him," Flowers said of Kish. "He told me when he first started recruiting me that he was a bulldog in recruiting me, that he was going to get me. Well, he got me.
"He's very honest. I asked him about (Mark) Stoops leaving and usually a coach would try to blow smoke at you but he told me honestly that he thought he was (leaving). He was very truthful throughout this whole process and I developed some trust with him - a lot of trust."
Some speculated that Mark Stoops' departure as Arizona's defensive coordinator would hurt UA's chances with Flowers. However, Flowers says that Stoops leaving made no impact in the recruitment, and that he's more than happy with the combination of Kish and Greg Brown as Arizona's co-defensive coordinators.
"That wasn't an issue," Flowers said. "I had already dealt with Greg Brown and I didn't talk to (Mark) Stoops that much, I had only really talked to Mike Stoops. He was obviously a great coach but I think Greg Brown is a very good coach so I don't think they lost a beat.
"I talked to Greg Brown and he was recruiting me from Colorado so I've been very familiar with him. I feel like they didn't miss a beat when they lost Stoops."
Flowers will use the next several months preparing for what is expected to be a very successful college football career. Many believe he'll make an early impact at Arizona and he'll head into Tucson with those same expectations.
"I hope I can make a good impact," he said. "Hopefully my speed and versatility can bring another threat to the defense and offense if that's where they need me."
The fact that Flowers mentions himself as a possibility to play offense may come as somewhat of a surprise, as UA recruited him as a safety. However, recruiting analysts all seem to agree that Flowers has the versatility to play numerous positions and he's open to playing anywhere on the field.
"I see myself as a safety but honestly I'm open to anything, wherever my abilities are going to help the team out is probably where I'll go," he said. "I'm a team player; I want to win, so wherever they need me most is where I'm going to go. They say safety so I have no problem playing safety."
Flowers will be joined in Tucson by a good friend of his in fellow Phoenix-area UA commit Jourdon Grandon. He says he's also friends with current UA safety Adam Hall, and hopes to help the Wildcats continue to recruit the state's best talent moving forward.
"Oh, I'm going to do my part," Flowers said. "I'm definitely going to do my part. A kid needs to go where it best fits for him because he has to be there for four years but I'll try to throw something in there for kids like Ka'Deem Carey out of Tucson to stay home and we'll definitely try to get good players in there. We've got good players but we just need to keep them coming."
Arizona has become a competitive football program relying on players much less touted than Flowers. However, if recruits like him can meet their potential, the UA program can get to the next level, and that's where Flowers hopes to help take Arizona football.
"I hope to get them to the Rose Bowl - that's the main goal," Flowers said. "I know they've never made it to the Rose Bowl so I think we can turn that around. We have the players and I think we're going to make some noise next year."
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