DAVIE, Fla. -- Sixteen years ago, former Boston College linebacker Brian Flores delivered his best tackle on Miami Hurricanes running back Frank Gore. In their Sept. 21, 2003, game in Boston, Gore attempted to catch a short pass when Flores separated him from the ball, forcing an incompletion.
A young Flores was fired up by the hit that forced a third-down stop, but in the end, it was Gore's No. 2-ranked Hurricanes that earned a 33-14 win.
Flores will face the future Pro Football Hall of Fame running back again, this time as the Miami Dolphins' coach. The Dolphins, who will take on Gore and his Buffalo Bills on Sunday (1 p.m. ET, CBS), are seeking their third consecutive win.
The Dolphins coach downplays his collegiate playing days but has enjoyed reliving them some in recent weeks.
"I made a couple of plays. That was probably one of maybe five total. I'll put it on my highlight reel," Flores said jokingly. "I tackled one of the greatest backs to ever play in the National Football League. I'll take it."
Shortly after Flores was hired in Miami, when Gore was still with the Dolphins rehabbing his foot injury in the offseason, he reminded the 36-year-old running back that they played against each other. Neither remembered much about their matchups. But after being shown a couple of the plays, both Flores and Gore got a chuckle out of the battle.
"If he's going to get me, I'm going to get him," Gore proclaimed. "Boston College always had tough, smart-minded guys."
Flores said: "He was a very, very good player. He was much better than me back then, and he went on to have an incredible career. I have a lot of respect for him as a player, as a person, and he'll be ready to go Sunday."
This week's game provides context of how Flores' Boston College career and his style of play then help him guide his Dolphins players now.
'Fold somebody in half'
Before the 4-2-5 became a popular defensive formation, Flores was one of the first "fives." Former Boston College coach Tom O'Brien figured that Flores was an undersized linebacker but was a tad too big to be a pure safety, so he made Flores a hybrid outside linebacker/strong safety/nickelback -- and that's where he thrived.
"It was a good position for him because he was good enough to cover slot receivers. He was a good blitzer off the edge. He quarterbacked a lot of the secondary and fronts," O'Brien said. "He was a good football mind. He understood the game and would be in good position all the time. He came into a zone his senior year, finished second in tackles."
Former teammates and coaches remember Flores as a smart, fiery leader. His consistency as a two-year starter on defense and special teams made him an example of what O'Brien wanted in a B.C. Eagle.
One highlight O'Brien remembers is a fourth-quarter fumble Flores forced on a kickoff to seal an upset victory against No. 12 Virginia Tech in 2003. It was the Eagles' first win against the Hokies since 1995, and Flores' big play was a significant part of it.
But there's one quality folks often connect to Flores as a player.
"B-Flo was probably the hardest hitter on the team," former B.C. player and current NFL Network analyst Will Blackmon said. "He was a grown man out there. There were guys who made splashier plays, but when someone was going to set the tone, like fold somebody in half, we knew it was going to be Brian."
The tape proved it. Flores was a hard hitter, and he loved to fire up his team after big plays.
"When he made a play, the whole team got excited," O'Brien said. "You could count on him. He was a natural leader. He was very versatile. We came to expect that from him."
Built to lead
It isn't a coincidence the intangibles Flores showed as a player are at the center of what he wants from his Dolphins players.
Flores often jokes that he hopes there are no Dolphins players who are like "B.C. Brian Flores" -- because of the NFL talent gap. But Flores has conceded that he did have a few redeeming skills.
"There's a lot of tough guys [on the Dolphins]. I think I was tough, and I was smart to get guys lined up. We've got a few guys like that, but they're much more talented than I was," Flores said. "I'm coaching. I'm doing what I'm supposed to be doing."
Even mired in a rebuilding season, Flores is showing signs that he is the right man for this Miami coaching job.
"He's the same guy as he was as a player," Blackmon said. "He was always the mature one of the group. He always did everything the right way. He was a man of integrity. He always worked hard. He was built to lead. If anyone can handle what's going on in Miami, it's Flores. That's who he is."
Flores wanted to go into scouting when his football career ended. He sent a letter to every NFL team, but he needed an in. O'Brien made a call to then-New England Patriots vice president of player personnel Scott Pioli recommending Flores if the Patriots needed someone for an entry-level role.
Ultimately, the Patriots gave Flores a shot, and he worked in New England for the past 15 years -- until the Dolphins hired him in February.
It has been a while since Flores put on a helmet. Meanwhile, Gore, the guy Flores competed against in college, needs 73 rushing yards to pass Barry Sanders for third all time on the NFL rushing list.
Both men are happy with how their careers have turned out. But Flores hopes his team has a little better luck against Gore on Sunday than he did in his college days.