Called a shrimp in high school, H-F’s Ryan Flournoy gets drafted by Dallas Cowboys. ‘A dreams-to-reality moment.’

The path for Ryan Flournoy to the NFL was bumpy and certainly unconventional.

Flournoy had no Division I offers coming out of Homewood-Flossmoor, went to NCAA Division II Central Missouri and was limited his first couple seasons by major injuries, including a torn ACL.

Eventually becoming a star receiver at Southeast Missouri State, Flournoy reached the dream destination of his journey on April 27 when the Dallas Cowboys took him with the 216th overall pick in the sixth round of the NFL draft.

“It feels so great,” Flournoy said on the Dallas Cowboys Draft Show following his selection. “It’s the best feeling in my life, honestly. I’ve been playing football since I was 5 years old and I’ve been dreaming of this moment ever since.”

The 6-foot-2 Flournoy, a 2018 H-F graduate, had 57 catches for 839 yards and six touchdowns last fall at Southeast Missouri. He earned an invitation to the Senior Bowl, where he impressed NFL scouts and put himself on the draft radar.

“I had a chip on my shoulder that whole time,” Flournoy said of the Senior Bowl. “I had a logo on my helmet that nobody recognized, so I really had a lot to prove. I went out there and I think I proved myself to the world.”

Flournoy has been proving himself for a long time.

Kellyn Gerenstein, Flournoy’s quarterback for much of their time at H-F, remembers Flournoy as “the shortest guy on the team.”

“He was a shrimp,” Gerenstein said. “His dad is awesome, but he’d be mad at me after every game because he thought I should be getting Ryan the ball more. We just had other guys.

“But, lo and behold, he was right the whole time to be upset because look where Ryan is now.”

Gerenstein, who now works in football recruiting at Boston College, said seeing Flournoy get drafted was an amazing moment.

“I’m really proud of him,” Gerenstein said. “He’s my friend before anything else. He’s really my brother. We’re both 24, so it wasn’t that long ago that we were 16 or 17 in the weight room at H-F.

“We put in a lot of time there together. We played since freshman year together. It’s surreal because it’s a dreams-to-reality moment. You see stuff like this in movies.”

Craig Buzea, who coached Flournoy at H-F and now heads the program at Crown Point in Indiana, saw potential in his young receiver. But a future NFL player?

“We knew he had the talent,” Buzea said. “We didn’t know if he had the talent to be drafted by the Cowboys. But he is a perfect example of perseverance.

“He was a late bloomer. When we had him, you could just see he hadn’t hit his stride yet. We saw glimpses of it. There are parts of us that feel bad we couldn’t highlight him as much just because of the circumstances we had.”

Those circumstances included Gerenstein suffering a season-ending injury a week before his and Flournoy’s senior season, forcing the Vikings to start a sophomore at quarterback.

H-F then became a run-heavy team led by all-state running back Justin Hall, who went on to play at Northern Illinois and Western Illinois.

“Ryan was a victim of us not throwing the ball a lot,” Buzea said. “But his persistence and perseverance are incredible. I couldn’t be more proud of him.

“His story is about as good as it gets. I think it’s an incredible story, so I hope we can get him in to talk to our guys at Crown Point at some point.”

Flournoy said he wouldn’t change his story, even with the struggles involved.

“God gave me those obstacles to mold me into the man I’ve become today,” he said. “I feel like I can overcome anything. Everything I’ve been through, at the time I didn’t really understand why I was going through it, but it was a blessing.”