Justin Flowe, a 9-year-old man-child playing running back for the Pomona Steelers, gets the handoff, runs left, reverses field and heads toward the end zone, sending three kids to the turf with stiff-arms on his way to a 64-yard touchdown.
The 2010 video titled “Babyman runs over Compton” from the Snoop Youth Football League has been viewed more than 13,000 times.
“Coach Snoop called me an SYFL legend,” Flowe said of Snoop Dogg.
The “Babyman” has grown to 6 feet 3 and 210 pounds. Last season as a 15-year-old freshman at Upland High, Flowe recorded 19 tackles playing linebacker in a playoff game against state champion Bellflower St. John Bosco.
“His collisions are violent,” coach Tim Salter said. “He’s relentless. He never thinks he’s out of a play.”
Running backs, quarterbacks and receivers would be wise to clutch the football very tightly when Flowe approaches, because he means business.
“I love to hit,” he said. “I’m going to dog you out.”
Whether playing inside or outside linebacker, Flowe is someone blockers need to be aware of to prevent him from disrupting a play. His combination of speed, strength and instincts makes him versatile and imposing.
Last season, Flowe was on the freshman team but then brought up to practice with the varsity at midseason. An assistant coach informed Salter, “Tim, you got to play this kid. He’s unbelievable.”
Flowe played in five varsity games. He also can play running back, so imagine if he tries out his stiff-arm this fall.
“I run mean, I run fast,” he said.
Success came at an early age.
“When I was 7 and 8, I was kind of bigger than everybody,’’ he said. “I was stronger, I was faster, so no one could really stop me. In high school, they’re a little bigger. I play against older people, so it’s a little tougher. I just try to play hard.
“When I got to varsity, I was a little nervous. I wasn’t nervous about the kids older than me. I was nervous about how I was going to play. I played against kids my age all my life, and thought it was going to be a big difference.”
As it turned out, Flowe adjusted and learned there wasn’t much difference after all.
“He’s got a knack,” Salter said. “He’s really good in space and can slip tackles.”
On the day before the Fourth of July, Flowe rose at 5:10 a.m. to join his teammates for a 6 a.m. summer workout that included weight lifting and conditioning. Birds were chirping as players walked to the weight room blurry eyed.
“It’s too early,” one player mumbled.
Soon, music was playing and sweat was falling.
“Get better. No days off,” Flowe said.
There was a turf burn on Flowe’s right elbow and another on his knee. It’s what happens playing linebacker in seven on seven summer football.
“You got to be rough,” he said.