Flannigan-Fowles leader of young UA defense
Arizona safety Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles warms up before the UA-Utah game on Sept. 22 at Arizona Stadium. Flannigan-Fowles was the No. 1 rated safety coming into the 2017 football season.
Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles says it was one of the defining times of his football career.
Much like a safety leaving his feet to reach for an interception, Flannigan-Fowles’ future was up in the air his senior year of high school.
Flannigan-Fowles, a two-way player in high school, transferred from Tucson High to Mountain View after his junior season. Due to the change in school districts, the Arizona Interscholastic Association (AIA) deemed the incoming senior ineligible for the upcoming season forcing Flannigan-Fowles to miss his final year of high school football.
It’s a story that has become known since the local product landed at the University of Arizona but three years later, it’s still a period of time that Flannigan-Fowles says he reflects on.
“For (AIA) to take that away from me it was hurtful, but it also helped me grow, and become better as a man,” Flannigan-Fowles said.
Flannigan-Fowles had one thing to look forward to that year though and that was a scholarship from Arizona. The program stuck with Flannigan-Fowles while he sat out his senior year and that decision has paid off.
Entering his third year at Arizona, the 205 pound defensive back was rated as the Pac-12’s top playmaking safety, according to Pro Football Focus and Flannigan-Fowles has earned that status four games into the 2017 campaign. Flannigan-Fowles has had a nose for the football so far, coming away with three interceptions and a fumble recovery.
Flannigan-Fowles, who once started his career at Arizona as a defensive sub, is now arguably UA’s best defender. The transformation didn’t happen overnight and the safety has had a mentor to get him where he is today.
Position coaches and players typically have close relationships on the field, but the relationship between Arizona safeties coach Jahmile Addae and Flannigan-Fowles is something that extends beyond the gridiron.
Flannigan-Fowles says he refers to Addae as someone who has been the biggest influence on his football life outside of his family.
“I don’t even have to go into the office and talk about just football,” Flannigan-Fowles said. “We can just talk about life… and I like that he has room to get away from football and talk about life with me.”
Addae has only been a part of the Wildcats coaching staff for two years, but his bond with Flannigan-Fowles is evident.
Perhaps it’s part of the reason why Flannigan-Fowles has been able to fully embrace Addae’s coaching and become the leader of a young Arizona defense. But even so, on the field Flannigan-Fowles has played the part of a hungry defensive back looking to improve in every way possible. And no, that’s not just another cliche according to Addae.
“He’s gotten better in just about every aspect of his game every year,” Addae said. “I know that sounds probably cliche… but he’s one of those guys that works at it.”
When it comes to techniques, Addae has been a stickler this year for talking about the football at practice and in the film room in order to get Flannigan-Fowles to make the ball his priority.
“It is something we’ve been overemphasizing with him because he hasn’t been able to capitalize on those opportunities in the past,” Addae said.
Addae attributes Flannigan-Fowles’s knack for finding the football this season to the junior’s hard work and instinctiveness.
“He’s always on the Jugs, he’s catching balls, he’s doing his own footwork drills,” Addae said. “He’s doing a hell of a job out there.”
One of the things Flannigan-Fowles has learned during the past two years is that any ball thrown in the air can be his.
“When the ball is in the air, it is as much the receiver’s ball as it is yours,” Flannigan-Fowles said. “So I just try to go up and catch the ball.”
To this day, Flannigan-Fowles still remembers his first interception. He was just a freshman in high school at the time playing in a game at Santa Rita High during the 2011 season. Once he got his hands on the ball to make the interception, Flannigan-Fowles’ confidence soared.
And with each game and interception at Arizona, he says that confidence continues to climb.
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