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Former USF star Quinton Flowers: ‘I was thinking about taking my life’ in 2016

The record-setting quarterback made the revelation at USF’s hall of fame banquet.
Former USF quarterback Quinton Flowers set 42 school records during his Bulls career. On Thursday night, he formally was inducted in the school's athletic hall of fame.
Former USF quarterback Quinton Flowers set 42 school records during his Bulls career. On Thursday night, he formally was inducted in the school's athletic hall of fame.
Published Nov. 11

A half-decade after his final game in a USF uniform, Quinton Flowers delivered another command performance for a Bulls crowd.

Only this one originated from the heart, not the pocket.

During an emotional 13-minute induction speech at the USF Athletic Hall of Fame banquet Thursday night, Flowers — widely considered the greatest player in program history — spoke of his bleak, blighted youth in his hardscrabble Miami neighborhood.

Then he discussed another near-tragedy never before documented.

During his record-smashing junior season in 2016, Flowers said, he contemplated suicide.

“I say I’m this strong again because my first child was born my junior year, and that was the same year I was thinking about taking my life,” Flowers told the audience in a speech that the athletic department posted on its YouTube channel. “Now I have another child, and it don’t make me do nothing but want great out of myself and what’s great for them.

“That year I had my child, that could’ve been a year I went missing, and none of you guys would’ve known me.”

Flowers’ acknowledgement stunned not only the live audience, but former Bulls peers. Former linebacker Auggie Sanchez, still the school’s all-time leading tackler who played four seasons with Flowers, said he had no idea his old teammate underwent such an emotional struggle.

Neither did former Bulls offensive lineman Billy Atterbury, who played three seasons with Flowers.

“That was definitely news to me,” said Atterbury, who attended the ceremony at the Sheraton Riverwalk Hotel.

“It does absolutely hurt that someone you were with every single day would feel that way. ... He would always think about the teammates before himself, and if he wanted everyone to be a certain way, he had to set the tone and set the expectation. I never had gotten any indication (he was considering suicide).”

Flowers’ inner anguish stemmed from a well-chronicled childhood teeming with grief.

He was 7 when his father, Nathaniel, was killed by a stray bullet in the front yard. Before his senior season at Miami’s Jackson High, his mother, Nancy, died after a long battle with cancer.

In 2014, a few days before Flowers’ first college start at SMU, his brother, Bradley, was killed in a drive-by shooting. Bradley had asked the driver to slow down because of children playing nearby.

Then in early September 2017, the day before the opening game of his senior year, Flowers learned a beloved aunt (his mom’s sister) had died from blood-clot issues.

“I played every game, because I felt like that’s all I had,” said Flowers, who went undrafted by the NFL despite setting 42 school records with the Bulls and currently is out of football.

“That’s the only way I could find happiness. You losing a mother, a brother and a father, with you being the youngest of five siblings, and you’re the last option to make things happen, and it doesn’t go as planned — that’s the most scariest thing ever.”

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Flowers indicated the adversity ultimately made him stronger and “built for anything.” Now in a new relationship and with a new child, he said he chose to bare his soul Thursday night with the hope it might help others struggling similarly.

“I didn’t come today to shed a tear, to make anybody feel sorry,” said Flowers, who broke down a handful of times during his speech.

“I came today to thank God that I was honored to get in the hall of fame and come up here and talk, because I may change somebody’s life in here. Because somebody’s probably going through something that they keep to themselves, and there’s probably somebody in here that can help you.”

Contact Joey Knight at jknight@tampabay.com. Follow @TBTimes_Bulls

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