It is almost eerie how similar Mark Walton and Quinton Flowers’ tragic histories sound at first listen.
Both of the Bengals’ rookie running backs grew up in Miami’s inner city.
They both lost their fathers before they were able to celebrate their 10th birthday.
Their mothers both passed from diseases.
They both have also lost a brother from shootings.
The rookies, whose lockers are side-by-side in the Bengals’ locker room, have even known each other since they were around seven-years-old touched base throughout their time in college. Walton was at University of Miami; Flowers at University of South Florida.
It is incredible to see one person prosper from such a tough upbringing, much less two. Fortunately they also share what could be the beginnings of a bright future with one-year-old daughters and a chance at achieving their dreams of playing in the NFL.
“I respect anybody who has gone through the things I’ve gone through,” Walton told Geoff Hobson of Bengals.com. “To get out of the inner city and go to college ball. Or going to the NFL. I admire everything about the guy.”
Walton followed Flowers’ career at USF. He also knew that Flowers came to the Bengals as an undrafted free agent. But, he was pretty surprised to see Flowers in the running back room on their first day in Cincinnati.
“I didn’t know until he was in the running back meeting room. I was shocked,” Walton said. “It’s a new era. He’s welcome in the room. They’re thankful he’s in the room. We can do some different things with him, like run the wild cat if they want to. I don’t think it’s too hard for him to learn. He’s been running the ball his whole life. He’s a great quarterback. Just look at his record at USF. We’ll see what he can do for us.”
Flowers had a winning record in each of his three seasons as USF’s starting quarterback: 8-5, 11-2 and 10-2.
Flowers has the same respect for Walton that Walton has for him. He also couldn’t help but keep an eye on what Walton was doing in Miami.
“We’ve probably known each other since we were seven years old,” Flowers said. “I knew him. I followed him. He had a great career. When I came home from break, I’d check up on him. We’d see each other.”
Walton and Flowers obviously have a respect for the life each of them have lived. They also like to use football as a chance to leave that behind.
“I respect anybody who has gone through the things I’ve gone through,” Walton says. “To get out of the inner city and go to college ball. Or going to the NFL. I admire everything about the guy... We’re the same type of person. We really don’t dwell on it. We know we have to handle it for our families. At the end of day we don’t try to deal with outside problems when we’re on the field. We just play football.”
Both Walton and Flowers share a position room, but their roles couldn’t be more different. Walton seems to be penciled in as the third running back behind Joe Mixon and Giovani Bernard after being drafted in the fourth round. He is a quicker back who can get involved in the passing game. It is hard to imagine him not making this roster.
Flowers’ route to the roster will be more difficult and he’ll play many roles along the way. After playing quarterback for most of his life, he will have to learn how to play the position of running back. Additionally, he will have prove his value on special teams in order to warrant a spot on the roster. The Bengals had him return punts and line up as personal protector on the punt team, which could add possibilities for some trickery on special teams with his added threat of being able to throw the ball.
Walton and Flowers’ lives have had similar routes up to this point; hopefully they can also share a bright future with the Bengals for years to come.