Trey Flowers – One of Eleven

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Sketch of Trey Flowers by Jack Kurzenknabe

One out of eleven.

Each individual on the football field is one out of eleven players representing his team.

New England Patriot’s defensive lineman, Trey Flowers, had a long time to get used to that ratio.  Growing up in Huntsville, Alabama, young Trey was one of eleven siblings.

In a family that large, you have to pitch in.  Trey’s father, Robert, owns Flowers Construction Company.  By the time he was 10-years old, Trey was already constructing walls, hanging shingles, and helping build houses.  Robert explained to Mark Daniels; “I’m a contractor. I worked hard. I wanted them to work, too.  Trey worked as hard as I did. When he was 12-years-old, he was worth $25 an hour to me. He could put on as much shingles or do as much construction work as any grown man.”

Trey learned as a young man the value of quiet, honest, hard work.  He has carried that blue-collar work ethic all the way to the NFL.  Flowers explains; “We grew up on a construction site.  It was just something about coming home, you’ve been gone from 6 in the morning to 8 at night coming home to a good meal, take a shower, go to sleep and do it all the next day. It was something that was instilled into us at a young age.”

Flowers worked hard; on the job site and on the football field.  His work was rewarded with a scholarship to the University of Arkansas.  The staff had discovered him through a YouTube highlight video and scouted him at a basketball game.  He was not, however, heavily recruited.  When he went to Arkansas, he found himself quickly buried on the bench.

That didn’t discourage Flowers.  Instead, he did what he did best; worked hard.  In time, his hard work payed off.  He became a starter and eventually got drafted by the New England Patriots in the 4th Round of the 2015 NFL Draft.

Reaching the NFL hasn’t changed Trey Flowers.  He’s still known for being quiet, humble, and working hard.  Defensive Coordinator, Brian Flores, gave him a nickname; “The Quiet Storm.”

Patriot’s defensive back Jason McCourty told the Boston Globe that the nickname “makes a lot of sense. I remember when I first got here, Trey always had his headphones on and I’m like… ‘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.”

Flowers adds; “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.  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.”

One of the reasons Flowers doesn’t brag or boast about his success is because he knows he didn’t make it here alone.  He knows that his success comes from God.  He explained to Rob Maadi on the Faith on the Field Show; “You go through life and you have different experiences and you just understand that nobody but God could have put you in that situation, So, you just know that and know that, no matter what you do, no matter how good you are, you’re not at this level without Him, so you’ve got to always stay humble and stay grounded and understand to give Him all the glory.”

A man who was one of eleven siblings, one of his favorite Bible Verses also has a one and an eleven; Hebrews 11:1 – Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

Flowers explains; “So, you know, that’s just the definition of faith which is you know the thing you’ve got to have just in life generally, and definitely out here on the football field; You gotta understand that a lot of things probably don’t look to good or your situation might not look to good but you’ve got to continue to keep the faith and continue to work hard, so that’s a big Scripture in my life.”

Halapoulivaati Vaitai – Philippians 4:13

As the Philadelphia Eagles prepare for the Super Bowl, there is a lot of talk about backups.  Mostly, the conversation centers around Nick Foles, the backup quarterback who has been filling in admirably for starter, Carson Wentz.  Wentz, though, is far from the only Eagles starter who will be missing from the Super Bowl.  Also injured are running back Darren Sproles, middle linebacker Jordan Hicks, and special teams specialist, Chris Maragos.  But perhaps the biggest missing piece is 9-time Pro Bowl left tackle, Jason Peters.

 Filling in for Peters is Halapoulivaati Vaitai – also known as “Big V.”

Vaitai is no Jason Peters.  Peters is one of the top Linemen in the NFL, while Vaitai is just a second year pro; one who wasn’t even selected until the 5th Round of the 2016 draft.  Jason Peters knows what it’s like to enter the NFL without much of a pedigree.  He entered the NFL as an undrafted free agent.  Peters continually encourages Vaitai and reminds him not to let his draft slot define him.  But, when Peters got injured in week 7 and Vaitai took his place, that’s exactly what others were doing.  Some people wanted Lane Johnson to shift from the other side of the line to play left tackle, because they didn’t trust Vaitai to protect Wentz’s blindside.  Others didn’t think to seem it mattered what Coach Doug Pederson did, assuming that replacing Peters with Vaitai spelled inevitable doom for the Eagles season.  Even the most optimistic Eagles fans seemed worried.  Vaitai sought to prove them all wrong.  He told the Philadelphia Inquirer; “I want to prove everyone wrong. I want to prove I belong, that I can hang with these guys.  I don’t want to be that guy they say, ‘He was a wasted draft pick.’”  I don’t think there’s any way you could call Vaitai a wasted pick.  He’s filled in well for the Eagles, helping them make it all the way to the Super Bowl.

 When Vaitai first became the Eagles starting left tackle, NJ.com ran a feature about him.  They claimed that his greatest strength is his strength.  That makes sense for a guy who benched 27 reps of 225 at his Pro Day.  But Vaitai has a different kind of strength as well; the strength that comes from knowing the Lord.   He told the Philadelphia Inquirer; “I’m religious. I’m playing through Him. There’s a Bible verse my mom recites: Philippians 4:13, ‘I can do all this through Jesus Christ, who strengthens me.’”

Philippians 4-13

Vaitai is a big, strong guy, and he always has been.  When Halapoulivaati and his two brothers, Kevin and William, first registered to play football at Watauga Middle School near Fort Worth Texas, his coach, Joe Ward told Penn Live that he immediately whispered to himself “our team just got a whole lot better.”  Halapoulivaati was already 6 feet tall, and his brothers, who were just 11 months younger, were nearly as large.

Their size and strength, however, never went to their heads.  Ward tells Penn Live that, even as the Vaitai brothers began to receive attention, they never displayed an ounce of cockiness with their actions. He says that Halapoulivaati rarely spoke out of turn – through really he never spoke much at all, for that matter.  Ward says “He was such a respectful kid, and he was very into his family and his faith.  The rest, everything else around him in football and all that, was secondary. He was just nice to everyone.”  Vaitai is a man a great humility.  I personally love the first words of his Instagram; “Don’t follow me.  Follow God.”

Because of the strength he has in the Lord, Vaitai lives with a sense of peace.  Even when he was a rookie, Penn Live noted that he never appeared “overly antsy or amped.”  When he first became a starter, and found himself the center of attention, his humble response was to simply smile and softly say; “I’m not used to this.  I’m not used to the cameras and stuff.  I guess I got to get used to it.”  Even now, as a starting lineman for the NFC Champs, he’s still quiet and humble.  Former Eagles lineman Matt Tobin says; “Yeah, he’s a great kid.  He just doesn’t say much.”

But there is one place where Vaitai loves to use his voice.  In church.  Vaitai and his brothers sang in their church choir, singing praises to God.  Ward insists that quiet Halapoulivaati has a singing voice that matches his 6-foot-6, 320-pound frame.  Ward say; “He probably wouldn’t tell you he’s good singer, but trust me, he can sing.”

As Ward quietly and humbly fights to bring the Lombardi Trophy to Philadelphia, he will playing for the Lord, from whom his strength comes!

The Gospel According to “G” – with Garry Cobb

A quick note: I was born in Philadelphia.  Needless to say; I have been a diehard Eagles fan for over 30 years now.  As the Eagles prepare for Super Bowl LII, “A Lamp unto My Cleats” is going to shift our focus for the next week or so.  Instead of looking at the game of baseball, we’ll talk about football; taking a look at some of the stars of the Philadelphia Eagles, their stories of faith, and their favorite Bibles.

Before we look at their players, there’s another person you’ve come to know over the years if you’ve followed the Eagles – Garry “G” Cobb.

 

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Garry Cobb met with fans and signed photos prior to and Eagles game at Lincoln Financial Field (Thanks to my Dad for having him sign this for me!)

Garry Cobb, affectionately known as “G,” was drafted by the Dallas Cowboys out of USC in the 9th Round of the 1979 draft, though he was waived prior to the start of the season.  He signed as a free agent with the Detroit Lions, and remained with them through the 1984 season.  Prior to the 1985 season, he was traded to Eagles for legendary running back Wilbert Montgomery.  While with the Eagles, he played alongside Jerome Brown, Clyde Simmons, Seth Joyner, and, the minister of defense himself, Reggie White.  Prior to the 1988 season, he signed once again with the Dallas Cowboys until knee problems ended his career in 1989.

 

After his playing career, Cobb transitioned into radio.  He became a popular sports talk show host on Sportsradio 610-WIP in 1991, where we quickly became a Philadelphia fan favorite.  He also worked as a sports anchor and reporter on CBS-3 television in Philadelphia for nearly a decade.

While many younger sports fans may not know the name ‘Garry Cobb,’ he has become a bit of a legend in Philadelphia.  He’s known for his infectious smile, his passion for life, his loving heart, and his constant desire to help people.  Those characteristics make him the perfect match for his current job.  Cobb works as an NFL Legends transition coach for NFL Player Engagement.  That means that he works with former NFL players, helping them adapt to life after the NFL.  The job, though, is really larger than that.  As Cobb explains on the NFL Player Engagement website, “You’re not just dealing with the player.  You’re dealing with his wife, his family. When a player retires or gets released, his wife and family retire or get released, too. And that’s the difficult part. That’s where problems happen.  We do whatever we can to help.  We’re not counselors, but if we think a player, or his family, needs counseling we tell them. And for the most part they’ll listen to us, because they know we played. We went through the same things…  I love what I’m doing.  I really do. I’m giving advice to guys and helping guys. That’s all I ever wanted to do.’’

Cobb is a great story-teller.  He uses his own personal experiences to help players.  He’s got the type of charisma where, when he talks, you can’t help but want to listen.  But there’s another topic that Cobb loves to speak about; his faith.

Cobb grew up in a Christian home, where his father served as an influential example of what it means to live for God.  He told Rob Maaddi on the “Faith on the Field show;”Well, really, I came up in a family… We were in church every week.  And as a youngster, I got saved when I was about 7 years old.  I remember going up because they were preaching that fire and brim stone and I was going like, ‘I know one thing, I don’t want to go to hell!’  So I went up and receive the Lord.  Growing up, my mom and my dad, they lived the kind of life where they loved the Lord…  The big thing about my dad is, 1st of all he lived what he preached in front of us, meaning, like, I never heard my dad curse… It was always God first… I’ve never really seen him look lustfully at another woman…  I think about my mom and my dad’s relationship; it was like they were together, and you never even thought about them not being together – there was never even a discussion or anything – and so that gave me that foundation.”

Just because he was raised in a good Christians home, doesn’t mean that young Garry Cobb didn’t struggle with his faith.  He explains; “But really, though, I had one foot in and one foot out, you know?  I wanted to be the man at the same time, you know; out, be cool, have ladies, and be successful and everything, and that’s really what my mind was.  But when I went to college, see, I met a young lady who is now my wife and everything.  But, you know, she got pregnant when we were out there and, really, I had some decisions to make. And really, what happened from that time, I really got serious about my relationship with the Lord because I really knew I needed to because I wasn’t ready to be a dad.  I was not ready to be a husband.  I wasn’t ready to live the kind of life I saw my father did in front of us and everything.  So I knew I got to get serious about it.  So, thankfully, I found a good church. I started finding out that God cares about us…  He’s got a purpose for our lives…  We can put all of our trust in His Word and know that He will help us…  And So, I’m able to really be the kind of person and grow and be the father that God wants me to be.”

While Cobb is growing as a man of God, he also knows that he’s still far from perfect.  He says; “at the same time, I know that there are times when I have to look in that mirror and say, ‘you have to straighten up there, young fellow’ and ‘we got to take this to another level…’  He will walk with you and He will take His time with you.  I mean His patience – it’s just ridiculous how good His patience is and how long it is.”

Growing into a personal relationship with Christ has changed Cobb’s life.  He says of being a Christian; “it’s just a fascinating life.  It’s the only way to live, it’s really real living, living with the Lord, because we can love people and we can care about them and we can share and we can break down a lot of walls and It’s just a fascinating life.”

Garry Cobb learned how to be a man of God by watching his father.  Now, he dedicates his life to showing others how to live and helping them make the most of their lives.  Peter told young Timothy in 1 Timothy 4:11 to set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.  That’s God’s charge to us as well.  We’re called to look at the life of Jesus – the way He loved, the way He lived, and the way He sacrificed Himself for us – and strive to give thanks for what He’s done for us by living as much like Him as we can.  None of that earns us a place in heaven – Jesus already did that by dying on the cross for us.  Instead, we strive to honor God and the sacrifice that Jesus made for us in the how we live, all with the hope that others will come to know Him through us.

 

I strongly recommend listening to the entire interview with Cobb and listening regularly to Rob Maaddi’s Faith on the Field show.