A 53-yard kickoff return during a preseason game against Tampa helped cement a spot on the Colts’ roster for Dallis Flowers (far left). | Courtesty of the Indianapolis Colts

Dallis Flowers has become the first graduate of Oak Park and River Forest High School to make a National Football League team’s active roster since Eric Kumerow played three seasons with the Miami Dolphins in 1988, 1989 and 1990.

Unlike Kumerow, who was a first-round draft pick by the Dolphins in 1988 and played college football at Ohio State, Flowers took a long, circuitous and unlikely route to making the regular season roster for the Indianapolis Colts.

Flowers, a cornerback and kick returner, played at four little-known colleges and went undrafted in April’s NFL draft. He signed as undrafted free agent with the Colts, went to their training camp and made the team — helped immeasurably by a 53-yard kickoff return in the Colts’ final preseason game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

“The moment was surreal,” said Flowers of learning that he had survived the final cut and make the team. “Blessed for the opportunity to be here and do the things that I love to do. I know I put in the time and the work, so I mean to me, I wasn’t surprised. I know I belonged here. You can look at the film, it pretty much shows it. You know film don’t lie.”

Flowers, a 2015 graduate of OPRF who is now 25, had to rely on film to get noticed because few NFL scouts attend the games at the four universities where Flowers played.

At OPRF, Flowers was a standout in both football and basketball, and he started his college career playing both football and basketball at Robert Morris University before moving on to Division II Tiffin University for a semester and one football season.

When Tiffin fired its basketball coach, reducing Flowers scholarship to 50 percent, he transferred to Grand View University, a small NAIA school in Des Moines where his brother Brennen was playing football.

He played football and basketball both in his first year at Grand View, but with the encouragement of his brother quit basketball for focus on football. Last year, he finished his college career last year at Division II Pittsburg State University in Kansas.

Flowers was a NAIA All American at Grand View and last season made four interceptions and ran back two kickoffs for touchdowns for a Pittsburg State Gorillas team that finished 11-3.

As an undrafted free agent from a small school, Flowers heard from plenty of doubters. He said that’s nothing new, he’s been underestimated his whole life.

“That just keeps me going,” Flowers said. “That just keeps a chip on my shoulder.”

The Colts coaches liked his potential. Flowers made 10 tackles, seven solo, in the preseason games, but it was his cover skills and kick return ability that won him a place on the roster.

“Dallis has really good physical cover skills,” said Colts head coach Frank Reich in a comment emailed to Wednesday Journal. “Some guys are real skilled cover guys, and he demonstrated that consistently to show and flash talent that [he] can cover one-on-one. We like his return ability. So, excited to have him on the roster.”

Although Flowers is on the Colts’ 53-man active roster, he has yet to suit up for a regular season game since only 47 players can be active for each game and Flowers has been made inactive for the first three regular season games of the season.

“I’m part of the 53,” Flowers said. “So, I mean I’m really just trying to, you know, work my way up.”

But Flowers has been on the Colts’ sideline during regular season games, including the Sept. 26 upset of the Kansas City Chiefs.

“I’m just blessed to be there, taking everything in, the atmosphere … but, I mean, it’s not going to be long for me to suit up and get on the field,” Flowers said.

At OPRF Flowers was a standout point guard for the OPRF basketball team and a wide receiver, cornerback and kick returner for the OPRF football team. At first, he seemed to prefer basketball. 

OPRF football coach John Hoerster loved Flowers’ speed and quickness and schemed to find ways to get the ball in his hands.

“I would say that Dallis is probably one of the most dynamic athletes that I’ve coached,” Hoerster said.

A couple of other recent OPRF graduates also have come close to making an NFL active roster. Wide receiver Simmie Cobbs, who graduated from OPRF in 2014, one year before Flowers, and played college football at Indiana, made it to the final cuts in Washington, spending most of the 2018 season on the team’s practice squad. Cobbs also made it to the final cut with the New Orleans Saints in 2019. In 2020, Cobbs made it to the final cuts on XFL Dallas Renegades.

This year for a couple weeks, Flowers and childhood friend Jared Scott were teammates on the Colts. Scott, a 2017 OPRF graduate and like Flowers an undrafted free agent who played football at multiple colleges, made it to the final cuts this season with the Carolina Panthers.

After being cut by the Panthers on Aug. 23 the Colts signed Scott to their practice squad. It was a reunion for Flowers and Scott, who have known each other and played sports together as kids in Oak Park.

Once Flowers made the team, he got an apartment and Scott stayed with him. But on Sept. 20 Scott was cut from the Colts practice squad. Scott told Wednesday Journal that he was flying to Green Bay on Sept. 27 for a workout with the Packers this week.

Oak Park native Robert Spillane, who graduated from Fenwick High School in 2014 made it the NFL as an undrafted free agent, has played linebacker for the Pittsburgh Steelers for the last four seasons.

Flowers hopes to build an NFL career as Spillane is doing. When he was a kid, he wanted to play in either the NFL or NBA.

Despite playing at little known colleges, he never lost sight of his goal. He kept working and believing that he could make it even with others thought it was an unrealistic dream. 

“Hard work and dedication; that’s really been my whole life,” Flowers said.

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