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Dave Hyde: As Brian Flores’ remarkable Patriots ride ends, his remarkable story continues

Brian Flores has something to say. You can see it in his eyes. Only his mind won’t let his mouth talk about his next job as the Miami Dolphins coach.

So, as you might guess, right now he’s focused only on the Super Bowl.

“Right now my focus is squarely on this team and this game,” the New England Patriots defensive coach said.

And he’s just thinking about how to win.

“I’m thinking of everything I can to help this team win,” he said.

And this final game against the Los Angeles Rams will be tough.

“This will be tough with the players they have,” he says.

But Flores has something thoughtful to say. You can see it in his eyes, his words, his mannerisms here under the blare and glare of Super Bowl’s media night, 60 minutes out in the open for the first time since the Dolphins made him their soon-to-be coach.

If his respect for his current team won’t let him discuss what the Dolphins are getting in a coach after this game, he can tell who they’re getting.

And they’re getting the most remarkable story out there for an NFL head coach. Flores tells of growing up in the poor Brownsville section of Brooklyn. Food-stamps poor. Live-in-the-projects poor.

“The elevator used to be broken,” he said. “So we’d walk up 20 flights of steps. We’d go shopping. I would get there, ‘Oh, elevator’s broken again, who’s walking up?’ It’s me with a bunch of (bags). My mom would follow suit. Sometimes I’d take a couple of trips.”

He lived in poverty, but became defined by his immigrant parents from Honduras, Raul and Maria. It is a story of hope – and not football hope, but this country’s hope of helping others to something better if they have it in them. And it was put in Flores by his parents.

“They instilled core values in me that I still lean on today – integrity, honor, character, doing things the right way, being honest, telling the truth, working hard. That’s my mantra my entire life – working hard.

“My mom was big on education. I remember very vividly learning how to read. I said, ‘Mom, I’m going to learn this tomorrow.’ She grabbed my ear and said, ‘We’re going to learn this right now.’ That’s the kind of environment I grew up in.”

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“I got into football by chance,” Flores said.

An uncle, a firefighter, played on the fire department team in New York. He introduced his 12-year-old nephew to football.

“I took it and ran with it – literally, because I was a running back,” he said.

Football became his identity beyond poverty. Football became a key to open doors. Football took him to college and a master’s degree at Boston College, then taught him what to do when his playing days as a 5-foot-11, 212-pound college linebacker ended.

“I wrote all 32 NFL teams for a job,” he said.

He’d do anything, work for nothing, he wrote. Most teams didn’t write back. He remembers them all, he says. One that did respond and give an interview was the Patriots.

Young, hungry, smart, cheap and teachable. Flores was perfect for The Patriots Way. In 2004, he took a job as general manager Scott Pioli’s assistant.

“Getting coffee, getting dry-cleaning, driving guys around,” Fores said. “I slept an hour a night on an air mattress that year.”

The air mattress was in the attic of a college teammate’s home. He started all the way at the bottom again, you see. That’s his story. No silver spoons. No short-cuts. Not in life, certainly not in coaching. This first job was walking up 20 flights of stairs all over again.

“Hard work, preparation, process – and hard work,” he said. “When I first started, I thought I was going to be general manager. I was an advance scout for three years. Then we lose the Super Bowl in the ’07-08 season after being 18-0.”

That made him want to coach. He started the next apprenticeship. A special-teams assistant for two years. An offensive quality-control assistant for a year. Then defense. All the while learning from the master, Bill Belichick.

“I really fell in love with coaching,” he said. “You really get to make an impact. You get to know them, get to know their families, get to know where they grew up.

“When you connect with players, and trust you, and they know you care about them. You can be as demanding and tough and get on them – that’s kind of my style. They don’t like me all the time. But they respect me and I respect them.”

So now he’s in his final game after 15 years in the Patriots organization. He knows what this latest Super Bowl is about. This, after all, is his fifth one as a coach.

“There’s a lot going on within the game,” Flores said. “What am I going to call on third down? What will I call in the red zone? There’s sudden change. That’s the job. I feel I’ve done a decent job with that. Hopefully, I can keep doing that.”

Can the 37-year-old Flores help the lost Dolphins win again? That’s moving too far down the tracks. The harsh truth is the Patriots won’t miss him. They haven’t missed the four previous coaches who ran the defense (Romeo Crennel, Eric Mangini, Dean Pees and Matt Patricia).

No, he won’t talk about the Dolphins just yet. “I love the guys on this team – to think about anything else aside from this game is a disservice to them. That’s not me. That’s kind of where I’m at.”

As Flores’ career advances with the Dolphins, his story doesn’t as he sees it. He’s still the kid in the projects climbing 20 flights of stairs. He wants you to see that, too.

“I’m fortunate, I’m humbled, that I can be an example to kids like me,” he said. “That, ‘You can do it.’ It’s being done right now. The kids in the project somewhere, I hope they’re not hopeless. They shouldn’t be.

“I’m sitting here, talking to you, at the Super Bowl. It’s a great story. It’s a dream, really.”

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Brian Flores, entrenador de linebackers de los New England Patriots, durante un entrenamiento en enero de 2015. (Elsa/Getty Images/TNS)

Brian Flores, entrenador de linebackers de los New England Patriots, durante un entrenamiento en enero de 2015. (Elsa/Getty Images/TNS)

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