The Miami Dolphins today (February 4) announced that Garifuna-American Brian Flores has been named the 13th head coach in franchise history.
“Two things that stand out immediately when you meet Brian are his football intelligence and leadership skills,” General Manager Chris Grier said. “Brian is widely respected throughout the NFL. He paid his dues in New England working in personnel, on offense, defense and special teams, which helped him build a great understanding of what it takes to win. If you talk with anyone who has played for him or worked with him, you will hear about his ability to lead and get the most out of people. Brian sets a high standard for his players and coaches and we are completely aligned with our vision on how to build a successful organization.”
The announcement comes a day after Flores, designed one of the most superbly called defensive plans in Super Bowl history. One that helped New England capture its sixth Lombardi Trophy in a 13-3 win over the Los Angeles Rams and shut down the league’s most celebrated offensive savant in Rams head coach Sean McVay, according to Yahoo News.
Brian Flores is the son of Raul and Maria Flores, Hondurans of Garifuna Descent who immigrated from Honduras in the 1970s unable to speak a word of English. Therefore, he is a Garifuna-American born in Brownsville, a residential neighborhood located in eastern Brooklyn in New York City.
He lived amid the high poverty, crime and unemployment rates. And he loved his community all the same. “It shaped me in a lot of ways,” he told ESPN. “It made me tough. I learned how to deal with adversity, and it motivated me to get out of there. It’s a tough environment. But it wasn’t the wild, wild West. There are a lot of good people there too. “I was fortunate to be around a lot of them.” It takes a village, after all. “And it takes a big village when you come out of Brownsville,” Flores said.
His father, Raul, was a merchant marine who was out to sea as many as 10 months out of the year. His mother, Maria, stayed home to stand guard over the five boys, including the youngest, Christopher, who has autism. Maria ruled with two iron fists. Unless her sons were traveling to and from school or practice, or running an errand, they were expected to be off the streets and inside their three-bedroom apartment in the Glenmore Plaza projects.
On a beautiful fall day when Flores was 12 years old, his uncle Darrel Patterson stopped by the apartment to find the Flores boys watching TV. Maria didn’t want them out of the building, but Patterson, a Jets fan and Brooklyn firefighter, had an idea. A cancer survivor, Patterson had been on medical leave on September 11, 2001, when he lost six colleagues from Ladder 118 at the World Trade Center. But football was Patterson’s joy, and he told Maria he was going to load the boys into his car to drive them to a Queens park used by the Lynvet youth football league. A coach there timed Flores in the 40-yard dash and couldn’t believe the kid’s speed. He pointed Flores toward a parked van and told him to go inside and pick out the equipment he wanted to use. The young Flores put his first pair of shoulder pads on backwards, and the rest is football history.
Flores became a Lynvet prodigy as a defensive end and running back, and as an eighth grader, he was spotted by former NFL nose guard Dino Mangiero, who was coaching at Brooklyn’s Poly Prep Country Day, a private high school attended by the children of New York elites. Flores was a grade-A student, and the school allowed Mangiero to admit a number of athletes from low-income backgrounds as part of its Jordan Scholars program. Flores and the younger brothers who followed him from P.S. 332 to Poly Prep, Danny and Luis, thought it was really something after a 90-minute commute by train and bus to see a pond full of ducks and a parking lot full of luxury cars. They were a long way from Brownsville in every literal and figurative way.
The Flores Family made education the household’s No. 1 priority beyond physical safety. According to Brian, his mother once grabbed him by the ear and forced him to immediately start reading the phonics book he’d just pushed to the side. As a result, all the Flores children graduated from four-year universities Raul Jr. (Virginia Tech), Brian (Boston College), Danny (Albany) and Luis (Bucknell). Flores earned his undergraduate degree as an English major and then earned his master’s in administrative studies. “Myself and my brothers are what our parents dreamed of having when they came to this country,” Flores said. “We are the American dream.”
Brian’s hiring will do a great service to young men around the country who are forced to deal with hopelessness and despair below the poverty line. “I hope it’s a powerful image,” Flores said. “I hope they look at me and hear my story, and there’s a hope and an understanding that they can do it too. That would be exactly what I would want them to feel. To see that regardless of what your circumstances are, or where your parents are from, of where you live … you can write your own story. I’ve written my own story.”
The Garifuna are an ethnic group of mixed ancestry; descendants of Carib, Arawak and African people living along the Caribbean Coast in Belize, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Honduras and St. Vincent and the Grenadines. A seafaring people, they arrived in the United States as merchant marines during World War II. New York City is currently home to the largest Garifuna population outside of Central America with an estimated 200,000 living in the South Bronx, Brownsville and East New York in Brooklyn, and Harlem.
Three years ago, Brian moved Raul, Maria and Christopher out of the projects and bought them a condo in North Attleborough, Massachusetts, two miles from his home. Flores’ own American dream, as a kid, was to make it as an NFL player and buy his parents a home so they never again had to walk up 20 flights of stairs when the elevator broke down, which happened every couple of weeks. Flores made that dream happen as an NFL coach, instead.
In his first media interview with the Miami Herald since agreeing to become Miami’s next coach, Flores quoted Bible scripture (Proverbs 27:17) and talked of his Garifuna parents whose struggle in a new country kindled a fire within him to reach for a better life. Congratulations to Garifuna-American Miami Dolphins Head Coach Brian Flores!
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