New England Patriots defensive end Trey Flowers helped a rehabilitated seal named after him return to the ocean on Tuesday — and the Super Bowl champ says the experience was “unlike anything” he’s ever done.
“[Trey] looked scared before she was released, so I decided to give her a little pep talk before she returned home to the ocean,” Flowers, 23, tells PEOPLE. “I told her that she was strong and could take over the world if she wants!
“I’m rooting for her.”
Trey (the seal) was rescued from Rockaway, New York, by the Riverhead Foundation for Marine Research and Preservation and brought to the Mystic Aquariums’ Animal Rescue Clinic on December 15. She received medical care for multiple wounds on her flippers, neck and belly.
“I’ve dealt with injury and things like that and I had to rehab and go through the process and go back out and perform,” says Flowers. “So I gave her a little pep talk and said we have the same struggle, we both rehab! But we’re going to be all right.”
Mystic Aquarium invited Flowers to join them at Blue Shutters Beach in Rhode Island for the release. And he quickly agreed to help out.
“They brought her in off a truck and put the cage up to the shore of the beach and I opened it up,” says Flowers.
Trey is the first seal to be released by Mystic Aquarium this year and she was named after the NFL star following his team’s incredible Super Bowl win.
“This was a great experience for all of us at Mystic Aquarium. Release day is always so rewarding –watching as an animal that the team cared for successfully swim out into the ocean. To experience it with Trey Flowers, who was so engaged in the event, made it even more fulfilling,” Janelle Schuh, a stranding coordinator on Mystic Aquarium’s Animal Rescue Team, tells PEOPLE.
“Trey’s participation has also allowed us to communicate the importance of our Animal Rescue Program and the work we do in ocean conservation to a much broader audience. We are grateful to Trey and the New England Patriots.”
Trey says the ordeal was pretty “random” but it has inspired him to look into ways he can help with animal rehabilitation in the future.
“This was my first time doing something like this, but I found it so interesting and I had a chance to go back to the aquarium and see how they rehabilitate,” he says. “It’s something I’d like to look into down the road.”