Niwot running back Liam Flanagan made a splash in the Cougars’ season opener against George Washington, rushing for a career-best 210 yards and three touchdowns. And that game was no fluke. In 2018, he rushed for more than 100 yards three times, and was indisputably Niwot’s offensive leader. While Flanagan is quick to give credit for his productivity to the offensive line and his coaches, it turns out that he also has some specialized training in his background that has paid off in unexpected ways.
“I did gymnastics for five years, and it’s helped me so much with football. I wish I’d continued to do it because it helped with balance and vision.”
According to Flanagan, it’s that “vision” that has helped him gain an edge as a rusher for the Cougars.
“Since I was a sophomore, Coach Byers has taught me to keep my eyes up and always look for that hole. Because I always want to run down and barge my way in. But he’s always taught me to have vision, and I respect that. It’s helped me a lot.”
Flanagan took up both gymnastics and football at age 9, and he finally chose the gridiron over the mat in middle school. Coincidentally, that was also when he switched from linebacker to running back, “because I wanted to be the one scoring touchdowns.”
For the past two seasons, Flanagan has been the one scoring touchdowns for the Cougars. As a junior, he ran for five, including three in Niwot’s win 26-13 win over Fort Lupton that snapped the Cougars’ 17-game losing streak. In all, Flanagan had close to 900 all-purpose yards for the Cougars in 2018, and is well on pace to break that as a senior. In Niwot’s slim loss to Greeley Central on Sept. 6, he added 80 yards to his 2019 total, including 25 yards receiving. He’s hoping his strict summer training regimen will help put him over the top.
Yet, for all of his personal success as a running back, the program’s recent success has been even more gratifying. For that, he cited major changes in team culture under head coach Jeremy Lanter, who joined the team in 2017 when Flanagan was a sophomore.
“If I was a freshman this year, compared to when I was a freshman, you can totally tell how we as a team are bonded,” he said, recalling the program under Coach Hollingsworth, who was fired in 2016. “My freshman year, there were groups, but this year we’re all together. We used to, if some team would make a big play, we’d just hang our heads and quit, but I haven’t seen that from this team yet.”
That new attitude is why Flanagan is optimistic about Niwot’s outlook for continued success in 2019. He’s also excited about having more contributors to help carry the load on offense, such as junior Isaac Fisk, who had two receptions for 94 yards and two touchdowns on the night. He is also getting help in the run game from fellow senior and summer training partner Julian Molina, who ran for 34 yards against Greeley Central.
“As a team, we’re good at doing 50-50 run/pass, and I think we’re going to keep doing that and just keep pushing.”
Flanagan spends his time off the field with friends or volunteering with the team. Until last year, he was also an avid rugby player, a sport he hopes to take up again in the future. After high school, he plans to go to college and pursue a tech-related degree, though he hasn’t settled on any particular institution. He also hopes to play football, and is pursuing a few opportunities.