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Giving thanks to and for USF quarterback Quinton Flowers, a grateful survivor

USF's Quinton Flowers watches the defense from the sidelines during the University of South Florida's Spring Game on Saturday afternoon, April 16, 2016 at Corbett Stadium at USF.

ZACK WITTMAN | Times

USF's Quinton Flowers watches the defense from the sidelines during the University of South Florida's Spring Game on Saturday afternoon, April 16, 2016 at Corbett Stadium at USF.

TAMPA — "You've got to give thanks," Quinton Flowers said.

USF's sensational dual-threat junior quarterback, the amazing Q, whose riveting success story Football America needs to discover, sat on a chair next to the USF practice fields on a sunny afternoon and talked about Thanksgiving. His mother, Nolita — "Nancy" to everyone — ran the show with a loving embrace.

"She made sure Thanksgiving was for everybody, for people in the neighborhood who didn't have," Flowers said. "She started cooking two days before."

He gave thanks for his baby girl, Amayah, who turns two months old on Friday. Flowers was in the room with his longtime girlfriend, Demya McCullough, when she delivered Amayah, who weighed 6 pounds, 11 ounces.

Papa Q.

"It was amazing," Flowers said. "I was there to help the doctor, to help catch her when she came out."

His first reception of the season.

"Something I'll never forget."

And there was when he was 14, after football practice, riding his bicycle through his Miami neighborhood, the kind the tourists never visit.

A car pulled up.

"There was a gun pointing at me," Flowers said. "They thought I'd stolen something from their family. That could have been the end, right there."

Quinton Flowers is still here, and ever remarkable. He's the greatest football player in USF history.

Flowers has taken Bulls coach Willie Taggart's offense — a combination of West Coast and spread and up-tempo — and turned it into a juggernaut. He's the biggest reason USF is 9-2 heading to Saturday's rival game against UCF.

Flowers has passed for 2,399 yards and 22 touchdowns. He has run for 1,273 yards and 13 touchdowns. He averages 8.1 yards per carry, second best in the nation, and is within 100 rushing yards of the potential Heisman Trophy, Lamar Jackson of Louisville.

Where to find a Q highlight reel?

"Pick a game," USF quarterbacks coach and former Bucs quarterback Shaun King said. "Pick any game."

"Never can you get tired of watching Q," said USF running back Marlon Mack, who is also Flower's roommate. "Q does magical things."

And that's not even the amazing part.

Here's the amazing part.

"He had every reason, every legitimate reason, to give up," King said.

Flowers was 7 when his father, Nathaniel, was killed by a stray bullet in the front yard. Before Flowers' senior season at Miami's Jackson High, Nancy died after a long battle with cancer. In 2014, a few days before Flowers' first USF start, his brother, Bradley, was killed in a drive-by shooting. Bradley had asked the driver to slow down because of the children playing.

"Football was always the thing that made me feel free," Flowers said. "It made me find a way out of the neighborhood, away from the streets. Football was the only way. The streets will find you."

All that tragedy.

All that pain.

"Q is made of steel," said former NFL receiver Antonio Brown, who coached Flowers growing up and at Jackson High. "This young man fought through everything."

Including doubters, all those schools that wanted Q the athlete, not Q the quarterback. Miami, Florida State and Florida were that way.

"At those places, I would have been just another guy," Flowers said. "I came to the right place."

He came to USF.

The Bulls have won 16 of their last 20 games, with absurd amounts of offense, blinding numbers. Blinding Q.

And that's not the amazing part.

"There are not many adults who could deal with what he's had to deal with in his life," Taggart said. "Resilience. Calmness. He just doesn't rattle. I try sometimes. I chew him up, rip him. He just says, 'Yes, sir.' That's him."

Quinton Flowers sat outside with the sun on his face. He thinks he's the best college football player in the country. He thinks he'll eventually play on Sundays. He thought of his mother.

"I wanted to buy her a house with her name on it."

But now there's his baby girl.

"I kiss her and she kisses me back," Flowers said. "That's what matters. I'm thankful for every day I get to see a sunrise. I don't take anything for granted."

You've got to give thanks.

Giving thanks to and for USF quarterback Quinton Flowers, a grateful survivor 11/22/16 [Last modified: Tuesday, November 22, 2016 7:37pm]
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