Handling his baggage
Notre Dame star Floyd insists he has a grip on things after off-field ‘mistakes’
It isn’t uncommon for a college student to get in trouble for underage drinking.
And one such incident involving an NFL prospect is easy to forgive. But three? That raises eyebrows.
That is the reality for Notre Dame receiver Michael Floyd, one of the biggest, most talented players at his position in this year’s draft. On the field, Floyd was prolific for the Fighting Irish, a four-year starter who rewrote the record books at the position for that storied program.
But once a year for three straight years, Floyd found himself in trouble because of alcohol. In May 2009 and January 2010, he was cited for underage drinking in his native Minnesota; in March 2011, he was arrested for driving under the influence near the Notre Dame campus, and reportedly had a blood-alcohol level of .19 (more than twice the legal limit).
The third incident came just a couple of months after the 6-foot-3-inch, 220-pounder announced that he would return to South Bend for his senior season and not enter the draft early. Irish coach Brian Kelly suspended Floyd indefinitely - a duration that turned out to be the offseason. He was reinstated at the start of fall practices last year, though he was stripped of his captaincy.
At the combine this year, Floyd cited his immaturity when asked about his off-field issues.
“You know, people all the time have mistakes like this,’’ he said. “Unfortunately, it happened to me on a big stage going across the nation.
“It’s about moving forward. It’s about making sure you don’t make the same mistake again, and just keeping a positive head and staying on the positive side of things.’’
Floyd credited Kelly with sticking with him through his problems, staying on him every day, and giving him a chance to return to the team. Had Kelly kicked Floyd off the team or Notre Dame decided to suspend him from school, Floyd could have entered the NFL’s supplemental draft last year.
The receiver, who is more likely to bowl over a cornerback than outrun him, rewarded Kelly and the program with a school-record 95 receptions, totaling 1,106 yards, and adding eight touchdowns. He was named team MVP for the second straight year.
His career numbers: 266 catches for 3,645 yards and 36 scores. All are school records, and came despite Floyd missing a large chunk of the season his sophomore year to a broken collarbone and two games at the end of his freshman season because of a knee injury.
From a pure pro potential perspective, Floyd and Oklahoma State’s Justin Blackmon are considered the top two receivers available this year.
“I don’t think he falls out of the top 21,’’ NFL Network draft guru Mike Mayock said of Floyd. “His bigger challenge is just to make sure people take his red flags off the field and make sure he adjusts accordingly.
“If teams take him off the board, that’s one thing. But if you’re talking to me about a football player, he’s a top 21 talent.’’
Floyd’s size and strong hands make life a little bit easier for quarterbacks, because he can go up and get just about any ball in his sizable radius.
Floyd lined up at every receiver spot on the field for Notre Dame. He also has some experience with a Patriots-style offense, having played for Charlie Weis for two years, but New England hasn’t taken a receiver in the first round since Terry Glenn in 1996.
As the predraft process began, Floyd was well aware that his off-field transgressions might cause him to drop. He knew he had to convince teams that he’d changed, a process that began with altering his habits.
“I went out less,’’ he said. “Just kind of changed the whole environment around me, friends. Just guys that I wouldn’t have to be in that position of having to do things that would potentially put me in troubled positions.
“I went to alcohol classes at school with a certain counselor with a whole bunch of kids from Notre Dame that were kind of going through some problems, too. It was a good experience and I liked it.’’
Floyd cites Arizona’s Larry Fitzgerald, Detroit’s Calvin Johnson, and Houston’s Andre Johnson, all of whom are at least 6-3, as current NFL receivers he is compared to and enjoys watching.
And he smartly zeroed in on Fitzgerald, one of the league’s best citizens (the Cardinals star has traveled to Africa with Oxfam America and Asia to distribute hearing aids to the poor), as someone he admires.
“I like his style - how he is on the field and how he shows himself off the field, too,’’ Floyd said. “He’s a positive character, a great guy to be around. I worked out with him before, and he’s just a guy that everyone wants to be around.’’
If Floyd has turned things around for himself the way he says he has, he could follow a similar path.