Arizona linebacker Marquis Flowers was projected to either be a late-round draft pick or to sign with an NFL team as an undrafted free agent. As a result, he vowed not to get his hopes too high as the draft unfolded Saturday.
"You go in with that game plan, but it's definitely hard to follow it," said Flowers.
As a result, the Wildcats' second-leading tackler last season says he was "filled with joy" when the Bengals selected him with the 36th pick of the sixth round.
"When Coach (Marvin) Lewis called me, it was just one of the best feelings," said Flowers. "I was watching at home with my family. I had a lot of family members over and it was a great experience to share it with all of them."
Flowers played in the US Army All-America Bowl as a high school senior and was a highly-rated recruit when he enrolled in Arizona.
"I went in there my freshman year as a (Mike) Stoops recruit at safety," said Flowers. "I played at nickel safety my first year. My second year, I got moved to strong safety due to our other safety tearing an ACL. Then after that, Coach Rich (Rodriguez) came in and moved me to linebacker a week before the first game of my junior year. It's been a great transition and I'm learning every day."
Flowers made a strong impression on Bengals linebackers coach Matt Burke with his athletic ability. For a team that already has one former college safety starting at linebacker (Emmanuel Lamur at SAM), this isn't a throwaway pick.
"He's 6'2 ½, 230-plus pounds and ran a 4.5 flat at his pro day," said Burke. "I spent a lot of time with him. He wasn't a combine guy so I was out in Arizona at his pro day. We brought him here on a visit as well, so I really got to know the kid pretty well through the process and I'm excited to have him on the team.
"He's just a long, fast kid that can run and move in space. That carries some special teams value for us as we move forward with him."
In his two seasons at linebacker at Arizona, the 22-year-old Flowers had 24 tackles for loss,6.5 sacks, four interceptions, and three forced fumbles.
"The linebacker position is starting to change slightly and I think this guy fits that mold," said Burke. "They used to call them undersized linebackers, but he's 6'2 ½", 230 pounds and he can run. I think that fits in to the game that we're playing these days.
"I think we've done good work here finding some late round guys and free agents that are good prospects that hit on some things that we look for in a linebacker."
"I knew they wanted me," said Flowers. "I had a really good vibe. This wasn't a team that called me and said, 'If you slip through everyone's hands we could get you.' This was a team that was persistent."