FOXBORO -- Soon after Trey Flowers was drafted by the Patriots last season, he grabbed a phone, addressed reporters stationed at Gillette Stadium, and he explained how he modeled his game after Bobby Boucher.
Boucher wasn't the name of an NFL idol or a former teammate. It was the name of the lead character in Adam Sandler's movie The Waterboy, a hilariously relentless linebacker.
"When I say Bobby Boucher or the Waterboy, [I mean] just the intensity part of it," Flowers said Thursday night. "He was kind of crazy in the head on some other levels. But just bring the intensity to the game, that attitude to the game. You gotta be around the ball, make a play . . . And don't let nobody talk about your momma."
Flowers, now in his second year out of Arkansas, didn't have much of an opportunity to put that kind of maniacal effort on display as a rookie. He played in just one regular-season game and was placed on season-ending injured reserve on Dec. 1.
But in New England's 34-22 preseason win over the Saints, Flowers was all over the field. He drew two holds, recorded a pressure that resulted in a throwaway, stuffed a New Orleans run, and he turned in what may have been the play of the game -- a strip sack of quarterback Luke McCown that he then recovered and returned for a touchdown.
The afternoon before his breakout performance, Flowers said he expected his high-energy style would be even more frenetic against the Saints. Since he was seven years old, he said, he had never missed as many games as he missed in 2015.
"It's probably amped up a little bit more just from sitting out a year," Flowers said. "I think you still have to have that mentality going out there on the field, going all out, wanting to make a play, wanting to get to the ball."
Flowers became a recognizable name for fans around this time last year when he recorded a preseason sack of Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers. A shoulder issue lingered for the next few months, limiting his participation in practices and keeping him off of the field on Sundays.
While he was hurt, though, Flowers felt as though he improved. He became a film junkie, and he quietly observed as teammates like Rob Ninkovich and Chandler Jones went about their work on a weekly basis.
Because the Patriots ask their ends to perform a variety of roles -- including rush the passer from the edge, set the edge against the run and rush from the inside in sub situations -- Flowers had his hands full as he was given an education in pro football.
Just because he wasn't able to play didn't mean he couldn't keep busy.
"It could be frustrating, and it got frustrating at times," Flowers said. "But I can control what I can control. All I can control is how I come back and how well I'm prepared when I come back. I couldn't do too [many] physical things, but I could take a little part of the mental game and just practice that and continue to stay engaged with the film."
With Jones now in Arizona as a result of a trade with the Cardinals, and with Ninkovich injured with a torn triceps, Flowers has a chance to carve himself a larger role in the Patriots defense. On Thursday, Jabaal Sheard, Chris Long and Shea McClellin saw a significant portion of snaps on the edge, but Flowers made as big a splash as anyone with his play.
Flowers' big night against the Saints was simply a loud continuation of what has already been a strong training camp for the Huntsville, Alabama native. Patriots coach Bill Belichick said recently that his uptick in play is an indication of the fact that the 22-year-old is finally healthy.
"Trey was with us in training camp last year. [He] was kind of a little bit limited, never could quite get his shoulder probably to 100 percent, or whatever it was, and then went on injured reserve and missed the rest of the year," Belichick said.
"He fought through it, he played, but wasn’t really able to explode with it like he is now. That was a strength of his at Arkansas and for not a tall guy he has long arms, he has some length as a player even though his stature is not exceptionally long, but he has long arms and he plays the run well. He’s a tough kid."
And, like his favorite movie character, Flowers loves contact. Thursday's performance only whetted his appetite for more.
"Just to be able to go out there and play the game you love," Flowers said, "and just be able to go out there and make a couple of plays here and there, and just to be able to do that again and do it with my brothers, my teammates, the guys I see and work day in and day out with . . . Just to do that and put the pads back on is definitely a joy."