If Marquis Flowers and Shaq Richardson could start the pre-draft process over, they’d both make one big change — they’d sign up for a frequent-flier program.
“I’ve been all over the place,” Flowers said. “I really should have gotten miles for all that travel.”
Flowers, who played in 50 games for the Arizona Wildcats over the past four seasons, and Richardson, a 37-game starter for the UA, are both hoping to hear their names called this week during the three-day NFL draft.
The two former teammates, now represented by the same agent, have spent the past six months flying all over the country to meet with NFL teams.
Richardson met with eight teams, including the Pittsburgh Steelers, Cincinnati Bengals and Miami Dolphins. Flowers traveled to seven different NFL cities.
“It’s been really fun and something totally different,” Richardson told the Star this week. “You meet the head coach and general manager and then just sit down with the position coach and go over plays and schemes and they basically quiz you. I love the game, so it’s a lot of fun to just get to sit down and talk football with people who are really smart.”
Neither player is a lock to be picked in the seven-round draft. NFLdraftscout.com ranks Flowers as the 24th-best outside linebacker prospect and Richardson as No. 29 among cornerbacks.
If they aren’t picked, both will try to sign rookie free-agent contracts shortly after the draft.
“I have Shaq Richardson as a late-rounder or a priority free agent,” said Matt Miller, the NFL draft analyst for Bleacher Report. “His tools are pretty raw and he needs a lot of coaching. But he has the size, speed and some of the instincts you need at the next level. He needs to refine his footwork, which he should be able to do.”
The 6-foot-3-inch, 231-pound Flowers — UA’s second-leading tackler with 93 in 2013 — will watch the draft with his family in Phoenix, keeping in touch with his agent. He’s going in with low expectations, but hoping for the best.
“I’m not dumb; I know I’m not some elite prospect who can call his own shots,” Flowers said. “But at the end of the day, this is something you will always remember if your name is called.”
The 6-foot, 194-pound Richardson, who had 55 tackles and three interceptions in 2013, also will watch the draft with his family in Carson, Calif.
The Star chatted with both about what’s sure to be a memorable weekend, one way or the other.
Two questions with LB Marquis Flowers
What are your emotions like with the draft so close?
A: “I’m going into the weekend with a level head and I’m not going to be disappointed with anything that happens. I’m going to be with the people I’ve been with since Day 1, and they will know how to support me. Anything can happen with the draft, so you really have no idea what to expect. Hopefully I end up in a good spot. Even though you always dream of being drafted, sometimes it’s better to choose your own team and sign a free-agent deal and pick the best fit. So whether it’s being drafted or signing a free-agent deal, I’m going to go in with a lot to prove and a chip on my shoulder.”
At UA, you played safety and linebacker. What position have most teams talked to you about playing?
A: “Most teams seem to like me at linebacker. I think playing both positions at Arizona has really helped me. Some teams like my versatility and the fact that I can help them out at multiple spots. A few teams have mentioned maybe playing some dime safety, but most talk about linebacker. No matter what I play, I know I’ll be on special teams and that will be my ticket to staying on a roster. So I want to come in ready to help in that aspect.”
Two questions with CB Shaq Richardson
How much motivation did you get from not being invited to the NFL combine and was it a surprise?
A: “I was definitely expecting to be invited. I was working out in Orlando with Marquis and a bunch of other high-profile guys. Then they all left for the combine and Marquis and I had to stay back. It wasn’t a good feeling, and I think we both made sure we remembered it. When I met with some teams recently, they were really surprised I wasn’t invited and asked what happened. I just told them I didn’t know, but would have liked to have been there. I think I started creating some buzz after the East-West Shrine Game, and teams started asking more and more about me after that. And then I put up some good numbers at the pro day at Arizona, and there were a lot of teams there to see that.”
How old were you when you realized you could potentially play in the NFL?
A: “I first started playing ball when I was 4 and I’ve always loved football. But I think the dream of playing in the NFL became real my junior year of high school. That’s the first time I thought, ‘I can really do it if I keep on the right path and keep working.’ Up until then, it was just for fun. But then I realized I could make a career out of it. I’ve always watched the draft, especially the last few years when I’ve had some friends taken, and I’ve always wanted to see my name pop up there.”