Editor’s Note: For any students or faculty who are affected by the loss of Nahje Flowers, there are resources available on campus. Please contact the Student Health and Counseling Center at (505) 277-3136 for more information or to speak to a counselor.
The University of New Mexico postponed its scheduled weekend game against Air Force after Nahje Flowers, 21, died on Tuesday.
The news came on Tuesday morning in a press release from the University of New Mexico football program. The brief didn’t include the details of Flower’s passing but included quotes from head coach Bob Davie and athletic director Eddie Nuñez expressing the team’s sadness.
"I know it caught me by surprise," said Juan Jimenez, a teammate of Flowers' at Susan Miller Dorsey High School in Los Angeles. "Nahje’s teammates are all caught by surprise right now."
Zheniah Houston, another of Flowers’ high school friends, described her bond with Flowers as inseparable. She said the pair met during their freshman year at Dorsey, in the school’s "upward bound" college prep program.
"We called each other our soulmates, but we never touched each other, because we were both disgusted by each other, so that was fun," Houston said.
On the field, Flowers was a beast. According to the Los Angeles Sentinel, Flowers was 6-feet tall and weighed 245 pounds during his junior year of high school.
"Whenever we’d do good on defense, I would celebrate with Nahje," Jimenez said as he reminisced on their Friday night games at Dorsey. "Nahje was bigger than me, so Nahje would pick me up and throw me in the air."
Flowers was scouted by a number of big schools, including the University of California-Los Angeles, Washington, Utah and Oklahoma State, according to the Los Angeles Sentinel. Instead, he chose UNM.
"I think it was the girls, honestly," Houston said. She added that Flowers loved his home in Los Angeles, but he wanted to venture outside of his hometown and try something new — just not too far.
Many members of the Dorsey community found out about Flowers’ passing on social media. The initial announcement, made by UNM Assistant Athletic Director Frank Mercogliano, was matched with a tidal wave of online posts that originated from both California and New Mexico.
"Nahje was a wonderful person and a great teammate," Davie said in his initial statement. "Our entire Lobo Football family mourns his passing, and our prayers go out to his family."
On Facebook, Flowers’ mentor and athletics-assigned advisor Jon DeBonis reflected on grief and his memories of the football player.
"I still remember that first time I helped Nahje study for his sign language classes. He was so freaking fast with his fingers, and his recall memories were photogenic," DeBonis wrote.
Flowers’ friend Mark Smith told the Daily Lobo that he remembers Flowers as the kind of person that would make everyone laugh. Smith said Flowers was the class clown in a math class they took together at UNM.
“If you focus on anything in your article, focus on the importance of people reaching out when they’re in need," Smith told the Daily Lobo over direct message on Twitter. "We all miss signs that could’ve helped avoid certain situations. Our mental health needs to be a priority before sports, school or anything."
Flowers is survived by his parents, La’Vonte Flowers and Vickie Gilmore and his siblings, Albert and Sah’Quira.
Alanie Rael is the sports editor at the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @AllyRael
Justin Garcia is the Editor-in-Chief of the Daily Lobo. He can be contacted at email@example.com or on Twitter @Just516garc