Football is a game of routine. Each season, each week, each day is carefully organized down to the minute. Weights, film study, meals, practice – all of the day's events are scheduled in time blocks. The offseason program looks different than the regular season schedule, which evolves from the training camp workload.
At Dolphins training camp 2020, sometimes at 10:01 a.m., other days at 10:02 a.m., the morning onlookers observed the double doors of the training facility open wide. Emerging from the glass-plated exit was Miami's new 343-pound offensive linemen. At some point during the 15-minute period that predates the upcoming two-hour practice, every player leaves the airconditioned building for the scorching South Florida sun; each in their pads, helmet in hand.
Ereck Flowers came equipped with extra accessories – a harness and band apparatus designed to increase resistance. After the grueling practice was over, extra instruction with Ereck began. The three rookie draft picks – Austin Jackson, Robert Hunt and Solomon Kindley – on the offense line would join Flowers in the bonus session.
"He has a lot more knowledge about things and how things go. He's just real helpful and he's definitely somebody I look up to on the o-line," Jackson said. "It helps him playing right next to me. So just getting to work with him and pick his brain about stuff. It's really helpful."
One of the captains of the Dolphins offensive line is incumbent Jesse Davis. Davis says the way he and Flowers lead is similar – quiet, but speaking up when something needs to be said.
"Ereck stays in his lane," Davis said. "He goes to work every day and leads by example. He's always on time and there to help if somebody asks him for help. I'm the same way, I don't really try to 'rah, rah' everybody around me but if something needs to be said then we'll say it."
One of four new starters along the Miami offensive line, and the most veteran among them, Flowers quickly took to the leadership role bestowed upon him. But his coaches claim that he's more of a by-example-kind-of-guy rather than a 'rah, rah' cheerleader.
"Ereck Flowers is a quiet man, but when he does talk, those guys listen," Dolphins Offensive Line Coach Steve Marshall said. "You guys have asked a lot about the young guys, but the real credit goes to those guys as far as helping young guys, and Ereck is certainly leadership-wise, and he does it with his play. I think he's exceeded expectations."
"He's having a very good start to the season," Dolphins Offensive Coordinator Chan Gailey said. "He is a calming influence on the line for us. He's very competitive on game day but very quiet during the week. He's very calm and really very professional about the way he goes about his business. I've been very happy with what he has brought to us, not only on the field playing, but blocking, run game, pass game, (and) what he brings as a leader to our offensive line."
"He's brought leadership since really he's been here. He loves to play," Flores said. "I notice his energy on the field really every week. If there's a big catch or there's a big run, he's really the first guy down there celebrating with his teammates and I think that energy is infectious and it's something I've highlighted in team meetings already."
For a team that prides itself on effort and doing the little things that don't require talent, Flowers is a perfect match.
"It's just my way of enjoying being out there," Flowers said. "When I got to the NFL, I didn't always enjoy it. It was more of a job. So I wanted to get back to how much fun I had in college and in high school. I also don't want anybody to feel like they're out there alone, so it's my way of supporting my teammates and getting into the game."
The man himself corroborated the quiet approach and mentality, but he said there's plenty of talking he still takes part in. He just saves it for Sunday.
"I'm more of an in-the-game type of player," Flowers said "That's when I'm talking a lot because that's when it really matters. That's when I do all my talking."
Flowers' example extends beyond the practice field. He showcases what he's all about on Sundays. A career tackle with the Giants and Jaguars, Flowers made the switch to guard in the nation's capital with the Washington Football Team.
At his new position in 2019, Flowers played 588 snaps in pass protection. With just four plays resulting in a hit on the quarterback form the left guard position, Flowers was in rarified air. Just one other guard who had more than 500 pass blocking snaps allowed fewer QB hits than Flowers, and that was Dallas' four-time All Pro Zack Martin, per Pro Football Focus.
Flowers may have moved back home but the results are similar through four games, including the praise heaped up on the former Miami Hurricane from his offensive line coach in Washington, Bill Callahan.
"I think the world of (Flowers)," Callahan said. "I just like the way he works, how he goes about his business. He's physical. He's been really good in pass protection. He's a strong square force in that respect."
The use of bands and resistance training is something Flowers took from Callahan. The biggest player on the Dolphins roster said it helps him with his speed, quickness and athleticism.
"That's something Bill (Callahan) put me on," Flowers said. "It helps your speed and your set. He wants dudes that are quick on their feet. He wants you to be able to jump people that require athleticism. It really helps with your set getting out of your stance and into your set."
The pass protection prowess is translating in the first quarter of his first year with his hometown team. Flowers is credited with only five pressures allowed on the quarterback. Four of those pressures are hurries, meaning Ryan Fitzpatrick has only been hit by a pass rusher working over the Miami left guard one time on 174 drop-backs.
Flowers is 15th among NFL guards in pressures allowed per pass-blocking snap (one pressure per 34.8 snaps), per PFF.
Performing at a high level was always Flowers' greatest ambition, but doing it in the stadium he used to attend as a child and a fan is nothing short of a dream come true.
"I've always followed the Dolphins," Flowers said. "It's really a dream come true for me. Sometimes when you're here, you don't really sit down and think about it."
Flowers, the ninth pick in the 2015 NFL Draft, grew up in Miami during the prime of another highly drafted, well-respected lineman. The Dolphins selected Jake Long with the first pick of the 2008 NFL Draft, a player Flowers remembers fondly.
"I used to watch Jake Long, Ricky Williams and all of those dudes," Flowers said.
The former Pro Bowl left tackle and running back were the only two players Flowers mentioned by name, but he grew nostalgic about one other element of being a youth football star with NFL dreams growing up in South Florida.
"I used to listen to WQAM in the morning," Flowers said. "I've always been involved with that. I've always followed the team, and my family too."
Flowers' routine of inundating himself with football translated. It earned him a full-ride scholarship to one of the nation's most storied programs at the University of Miami. It earned him the honorable distinction of being a top 10 NFL draft pick. And it eventually came full circle when Flowers signed a free agent contract to come back to the place where it all began.
"I grew up always wanting to play down here," Flowers said. "Being able to play all three levels in Miami is a really special opportunity."
If he could trade places with that little boy listening to WQAM on a Sunday afternoon, he'd hear Joe Rose emphatically shout his name on what has become routine for Ereck Flowers – a quiet giant who routinely executes punishing blocks.