Sports, Football

‘Heights’ 2022–23 Male Athlete of the Year: Zay Flowers

Zay Flowers can’t pinpoint one low moment from his four years at Boston College. Not a single one through 48 games. 

“I don’t really see anything as a low moment,” Flowers said. “I see it as a learning moment.”

But, when asked about the highs, Flowers was quick to mention BC’s upset over then-No. 17 N.C. State—a bright spot in an otherwise forgettable season. 

“Things didn’t go our way, and it’s not gonna always go your way,” Flowers said of the 2022 season, in which BC won three games. “Sometimes, you still gotta go out and grind and play for what you are.”

That’s just who Flowers is. The 5-foot-9, 183-pound wide receiver and recent NFL first-round pick lights up any room he’s in and never stops working, according to BC head coach Jeff Hafley. Hafley coached Flowers for three seasons in Chestnut Hill. 

And on top of his numerous accolades as a BC football legend, Flowers holds the school record for receiving yards, total receptions, and receiving touchdowns—achievements that helped him earn The Heights’ 2022–23 Male Athlete of the Year honor. 

“Could be the worst day, the hardest day, and he’s got a big smile, great look in his eyes, and is the most energetic, fun-loving guy I’ve ever been around,” Hafley said. 

Flowers has embodied this personality ever since he decided he wanted to be a football player at 5 years old. His father, Willie Flowers, helped him cement those ethics on and off the field.

“He taught me what it means about hard work,” Flowers said of Willie, a father of 14. “He taught me what I know about just grinding and going to get what you want and not letting it be handed to you.”

Flowers couldn’t have reached this level of success without his family, he said—especially his father. 

“He saw that we had so much love for [football] that he just pushed us a little bit more,” Flowers said. “He was the one that really started me from a young age since I was playing little league football—just going out and getting what you want.”

That hard work put the Fort Lauderdale, Fla. native in a position to thrive on the Heights. No other wide receiver in BC football history has accomplished what Flowers has. 

“First practice, we did one-on-one’s my first spring,” Hafley said. “I saw him run a route, stop and start, accelerate. I said, ‘we got one.’” 

Quarterback Emmett Morehead, who was Flowers’ teammate the past two seasons and is the Eagles’ expected starter for the 2023 season, echoed a similar sentiment. 

“First practice, honestly, I was just watching him run some routes, and he was just super, super quick,” Morehead said. “I had shown up for spring ball in my senior year of high school and definitely had never seen anything like that.”

After a junior year campaign that ended with 746 receiving yards and five touchdown receptions, there was serious buzz that Flowers would declare for the NFL Draft or potentially transfer for a considerable NIL package. 

But Flowers always knew that he wanted to remain in college for a fourth and final year at BC. 

“I felt like I needed to put more on tape,” Flowers said. “I also wanted to break the records.” 

The records now jump off the page for Flowers, who sits atop the program for virtually every receiving category. Staying put at BC was the only way to accomplish that. 

Even though the Eagles won three games in 2022, Flowers doesn’t look back on the season as a failure. 

“It was tough,” Flowers said, citing injuries and a young offensive line as reasons for BC’s struggles. “But every game you gotta go out and fight to get a win, and that’s all I wanted to do in my last year. … I just went out and pushed every day and grinded every day in practice and games, no matter what it was, because I wanted to leave a mark.” 

Now, it’s time for Flowers to leave a mark with the Baltimore Ravens, the organization that selected him with the No. 22 overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft. 

“Going into it, you think you know what it’s gonna be like,” Flowers said of the draft. “But until your name is called, it’s just like a surreal feeling.”

Hafley wanted Flowers to be drafted as high as possible, according to BC’s skipper. But he also said he hoped that Flowers would fit into the team’s scheme. 

“I think the Ravens consistently are one of the best organizations, from the coaching staff to the front office,” Hafley said. “That’s a great place and he’s in really good hands, and that made me really happy that night.”

According to Hafley, the grind won’t stop for Flowers in the NFL. The wideout will need to continue to make leaps, just like he did when he significantly improved from his junior to senior season in college. 

“People were kind of knocking him because he wasn’t making the downfield contested catches, and people didn’t think he could be a first-round pick because of that,” Hafley said. “I think he took that upon himself and worked with Coach [Darrell] Wyatt. Last year, he made a ton of contested catches and proved everybody wrong.”

Flowers’ development catapulted him into becoming the Eagles’ first wide receiver drafted in 36 years. 

“No, I’m not surprised,” Hafley said of the Ravens’ decision to pick Flowers. “I coached in that league for many years. I’ve seen it, coached against a lot of good wide receivers, and I think Zay is a unique one with a different skill set. And I think he’s gonna have a huge year.”

Baltimore has been Flowers’ No. 1 landing spot from the onset of his NFL recruitment. 

“When I came on my visit, it was my best visit,” Flowers said. “It just made me comfortable—genuine people.” 

And so far, Flowers has fit in just fine. 

“Training camp has been great,” Flowers said. “Learning from the older guys, learning from the coaches, and just going to put it on the field, doing what I do, and showing why I was the right pick for them.” 

Playing with former league MVP Lamar Jackson and one of the NFL’s top tight ends like Mark Andrews has been special, according to Flowers. 

“Super crazy,” Flowers said. “It’s been fun having guys who work just as hard as me or harder than me.” 

Flowers has certainly picked up where he left off at BC, as he hauled in a 26-yard touchdown pass on Monday during a preseason game against the Washington Commanders, his first NFL touchdown.

And through it all, Flowers can always count on his family, he said. Flowers made that clear when he gifted his father a brand new car back in May. 

“They were my biggest fans, always [had] my back, whatever it was,” Flowers said. “I can’t thank them enough for that.”

Flowers still texts Hafley and keeps up with his alma mater. He said that he’ll even try to make a BC game this season despite a hectic NFL schedule. 

“He knows that if he needs anything, I will be there for him in a second,” Hafley said. “And I know if I need anything, he’ll be there in a second. And that’s not about football. That’s about relationships.”

Morehead said that Flowers’ outward-going persona will help him at the next level. 

“He’s got a very rare, very rare energy,” Morehead said. “He’s extremely outgoing, can talk to anybody. I mean, even when I showed up, he was really nice to me right from the get-go. He’s gonna make a ton of friends at the next level just being who he is and just being a positive role model for a lot of younger guys.”

None of this would have been possible without his time in Chestnut Hill, Flowers said. 

“It was the best decision I ever made, to this day,” Flowers said of choosing to go to BC. “Because they helped me become the man I am today. [They] taught me how to grind, even though we’re not winning, and be loyal to a team that was loyal to you.” 

August 25, 2023