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Built to get the job done

  • John Paul Flores, left, sets up to pass block during an Aug. 31, 2018, practice on Memorial Field. The sophomore tackle protects the Big Green quarterbacks' blind side despite being somewhat undersized. (Tris Wykes - Valley News) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Purchase a reprint »

  • John Paul Flores is congratulated by position coach Keith Clark on May 1, 2019, upon being honored as the most improved offensive lineman during spring practice. Flores starts at left tackle as a sophomore for the Big Green. (Tris Wykes - Valley News) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Purchase a reprint »

  • John Paul Flores (64) gathers with fellow offensive linemen during an Aug. 26, 2018, practice on the Blackman Fields. The sophomore is the Big Green's starting left tackle this season, following in the footsteps of his older brother, Jacob, a 2016 Dartmouth graduate and standout center. (Tris Wykes - Valley News) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Purchase a reprint »

  • John Paul Flores

  • Dartmouth College left tackle John Paul Flores in action against Jacksonville (Fla.) University during the Big Green's 2019 season opener. Flores is starting as a sophomore for a team that's contending for its first Ivy League title since 2015.

  • Flores family members, from left, Charlie III, Charlie IV, Lysette, John Paul and Lisa stand with Lisa's cousin, Maggie Garza after the Dartmouth College vs. Columbia football game on Oct. 20, 2018. All five Flores children attended or are attending Ivy League schools. (Tris Wykes - Valley News) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Purchase a reprint »

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 11/1/2019 10:05:55 PM
Modified: 11/1/2019 10:05:39 PM

HANOVER — John Paul Flores’ left arm is crucial to his role as the Dartmouth College football team’s starting left tackle. It’s that arm that steers opposing pass rushers wide of Big Green quarterbacks and allows the offense to function smoothly.

It was that arm, however, that was the focus of extreme concern nearly 21 years ago upon Flores’ home birth in Arlington, Texas.

At 11 pounds, 3 ounces and 22½ inches long, Flores’ arrival wasn’t likely too easy. But after the baby’s head crowned and the process stalled for five crucial minutes with his arm stuck behind his back, anxiety turned to panic at 6 a.m.

“When the midwife starts praying and tells you to call 911, you have problems,” said Charlie Flores III, father of John Paul and his five siblings. “I dialed, but I spoke like a caveman. I just said, ‘Emergency,’ and, ‘Send help.’ ”

John Paul was born before the paramedics pulled up, but his left arm was “dangling like a piece of meat,” said his father. “We had to take him to the hospital and get a sling on it.”

John Paul Flores, the fourth-oldest child in his family, never showed further signs of dysfunction in the limb and has developed into something of a rarity as a sophomore starter on Dartmouth’s offensive line. The No. 14 and undefeated Big Green visits archrival Harvard (4-2, 2-1) on Saturday afternoon.

“When he gets strong, he will become a dominating player,” said Flores’ position coach, Keith Clark. “When you have a kid who’s that size and that athletic, you have to see if he can play. He’s hands down the guy who should be out there.”

At 6-foot-5 and 285 pounds, Flores is far from weak, but is in the midst of a thickening and strengthening process that’s partly natural and partly planned. The youngster, an accomplished basketball player in high school, was 30 pounds lighter a year ago and with his shoulder pads on, somewhat resembled a capital letter T.

Since then, Flores has immersed himself not only in blocking technique and learning plays but in weightlifting and trying to consume as many as 12,000 calories per day. Meals can last an hour, feature four main-dish helpings and sometimes include eight eggs, heaping bowls of oatmeal, sweet potatoes, chicken and enormous salads.

“I have a really high metabolism, so it’s not easy,” Flores said.

Life hasn’t been easy for the Flores family as a whole. Charlie Flores III owns a used car dealership, and his wife, Lisa, now teaches disadvantaged preschoolers. She previously home-schooled her three oldest children before they reached junior high, including eldest child Lysette, now a third-grade teacher with a master’s degree from Harvard. Jacob, the second child, is a 2016 Dartmouth graduate who played two seasons in the Green Bay Packers organization.

Charlie Flores IV was supposed to attend Dartmouth, but application and administrative entanglements resulted in his instead playing at Columbia. He’s now a graduate student and reserve lineman for Southern Methodist University in Dallas. The No. 15 Mustangs enter the weekend 8-0.

John Paul Flores is joined at Dartmouth by his brother, Michael, another lineman who’s sitting out this season after suffering back injuries in a car crash early this year. The older of the pair earned his starting job during spring practice; he protects the blind side for right-handed quarterbacks Jared Gerbino and Derek Kyler.

“In high school, you just line up across from a guy and try to maul him,” John Paul Flores said. “Here, there’s so much technique you’ve never even thought about before.”

Work ethic will not be a problem. The Flores family helped pay its children’s tuition at a Catholic school by regularly cleaning the building and setting up chairs, tables and other furniture needed for banquets, meetings and worship services. The boys worked at their father’s dealership and then at the snow cone stand he erected on a lot next door, complete with drive-through service.

The family later expanded the Snoball Corrall’s sales to minor league baseball games, the Texas Motor Speedway and the region’s concert pavilion. Spending a sweltering afternoon under the Texas sun on your feet while covered in sticky flavor syrup will make time pass slowly, but it gives one time to think.

“We’re a blue-collar family, and we saw how hard my parents worked,” John Paul Flores said, noting that his maternal grandparents were migrant produce pickers. “You put in the work now, so you won’t have to do manual labor later. You leverage your athletics to get better academics.”

Competitiveness was added to the mix early, no doubt partially handed down from when Charlie III played football and Lisa played volleyball at Texas A&I in Kingsville. They started their family in a three-bedroom house in which the four boys slept in one room, the older pair in a bunk bed and the younger two on camping cots.

Lisa Flores described the neighborhood as “not so good” and kept her kids on their property. They played with each other, substituting trash cans for goals in a rough-and-tumble game resembling handball. Later, after moving across the street from a junior high school in a better area, the “bear cubs,” as their mother calls them, would battle for hours on school grounds, before returning to consume enough food to fuel a $300 weekly grocery bill.

“The No. 1 rule in our house was keep your hands to yourself, because a lot of fights would break out,” John Paul said with a smile. “Somebody would usually be screaming or crying or bleeding when we came back, because losing to your brothers wasn’t OK.”

Clark said Jacob Flores learned to play with a legal mean streak by the time he left Dartmouth and that John Paul needs to develop a similar edge. Off the field, the brothers are excellent students and widely beloved by their teammates. Big Green head coach Buddy Teevens said he was only five minutes into his recruiting visit for Jacob when he saw how the teenager treated his mother and knew he needed to bring him to Hanover.

“Having the Flores family come to your school is something that doesn’t happen every day for a coach,” said Aaron Beck, the football coach and athletic director at All Saints Episcopal School in Fort Worth, Texas. He coached Charlie IV, John Paul and Michael on a team that’s one of the most successful at its level in the state and which routinely produces Division I college players.

“They’re loving and caring and nurturing with infectious smiles. But they play tough football.”

Tris Wykes can be reached at twykes@vnews.com.




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