SWEENY

A 2013 graduate from Columbia High School, Bernard Rafael Flores is still beating down doors to continue playing football.

On Friday, Flores will report to the Duke City Gladiators of the Indoor Football League in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

“This is my third year in arena football. For two years I was with the Amarillo Venom in the Champions Indoor Football League until the league folded,” Flores said. “I hooked onto Duke City and this is my first year with them.”

At 6-foot-6 385 pounds, Flores has mostly played nose guard or on the offensive line, but in the last three seasons he’s picked up the center position.

“This has been a totally different game because in outdoors it’s 11 on offense, 11 on defense, but in arena it’s eight on offense, eight on defense,” Flores said. “The field is 50 yards long and 25 yards wide, so there is a lot more contact and it is a lot more physical. I guess one good part is less running which is the best part.”

Flores has had success with indoor football making first team All Champions Indoor Football League in 2018 and making the second team in 2019. He played both ways, blocking some kicks in the process and also scoring three touchdowns on offense.

“My quarterback in Amarillo, Nate Davis played for the San Francisco 49ers and he made it easy for me to play center for him,” Flores said. “He went to the Duke City Gladiators after our team folded in Amarillo and he told the team about me and they called me up.”

The Indoor Football League has 13 members with two teams in Arizona, California and Iowa and single teams in North Dakota, Illinois, South Dakota, Texas, Washington, Wisconsin and New Mexico.

Right after graduating Columbia High School, Flores played at Cisco Junior College and then went on to Texas College in Tyler to finish up his college eligibility. So far Flores has enjoyed the action that indoor football creates.

“It’s been something different so I’ve had to get used to playing that,” he said. “My first year I played guard and the guard could actually go out for passes in arena football. It was all kind of different and I had to get use to the loud noise, because we play in basketball stadiums as they just roll out the astro turf and everybody is like right on the wall.”

One of the things Flores also had to get used to in arena football was getting rid of the ball quickly.

“The fact that it’s only three linemen and they can get blitzed by linebackers is just crazy,” Flores said. “In arena football the quarterback gets rid of the ball in two to three seconds, so I have to snap the ball before the receivers are 3 yards downfield. Now receivers get a 2-yard head start before you snap the ball.”

Most of his offseason workouts were specifically designed to get faster snapping the ball. Even though he trained on being an all-around talent on the field, he had to do something more challenging. Flores had to make certain he was sure to continue playing after becoming a parent in January.

“I’ve always had one foot in, one foot out after college, and this was just something that I’ve been used to doing,” he said. For me I’ve always second- guessed whether I wanted to do it or not. But if I could just buckle down and devote myself to it, I could possibly move on elsewhere.”

That somewhere else could be another league, possibly the XFL or maybe even Canada.

“Seeing that I got an opportunity, I just wanted to play,” he said. “This new league has been getting a lot of praise. They were paying pretty decent and Marshall Lynch owns the Oakland Panthers, so it is a league of opportunity.”

After a couple of weeks of working out, Flores and his Duke City Gladiators will open the season in Frisco on March 12.

“I am hoping some of my family gets to go up and see me for that game,” Flores said. “For me the hardest part will be leaving my family.”

Joel Luna is sports editor for The Facts. Contact him at 979-237-0160.

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