Michael Floyd among nation’s best
Andrew Owens | Thursday, November 17, 2011
Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared in the Sept. 16 edition of The Observer.
Whether working on his degree or snaring passes, Michael Floyd relies on one source of inspiration in everything he does — his close relationship with his mother.
“[My mother] means a lot,” Floyd said. “She’s my motivator, what keeps me going. She keeps the fuel going in my body to get good grades and play well on the football field. I just want to do well for her and for myself.”
Theresa Romero raised Floyd in St. Paul, Minn. and, though now separated by distance, the two remain close during busy autumns. Romero will be in attendance for the Boston College game and was on hand for the Oct. 22 loss to USC and saw her son catch 12 passes for 154 yards and two touchdowns in the season opener against South Florida.
When Floyd announced he would return for his senior season, he said his mother played a large role in the decision.
“I always told my mom I wanted to graduate college, so that was my first goal,” Floyd said. “It was the reason why I came back to graduate from here. I think I made it this far in college and I didn’t want to leave here without getting a degree.”
Floyd’s plan suffered a setback when he was arrested March 20 after being pulled over by Notre Dame Security Police and charged with driving a vehicle while intoxicated. Once again, Floyd relied on his mother’s support while his status with the University and football team was uncertain.
“You just got to look past that and that was a wrong decision, but moving forward I’m doing a good job with the team, handling things right, being a vocal leader and carrying myself in a positive way,” Floyd said.
Since Floyd’s reinstatement, the coaching staff says it has seen a more mature leader in the senior receiver.
“Michael has been what we expected and more,” Irish coach Brian Kelly said. “He’s been great in the locker room, he’s been great around our teammates, he’s a joy to coach, he’s upbeat and positive about everything, and he’s a great competitor. I’m just lucky that I get an opportunity to coach him.”
Floyd’s strong work ethic has been a constant throughout his time at Notre Dame and has set an example for the rest of the offense, offensive coordinator Charley Molnar said.
“I say it over and over again, his best form of leadership is this: He comes to work every single day and does his best, he gives his all,” he said. “He’s really the hardest worker we have on the offense. Day-in and day-out, he really is the benchmark for effort offensively.”
Proving he’s the best
Floyd returned to school with a chip on his shoulder after professional scouts rated other receivers higher while evaluating potential draftees.
“Just knowing that they see other guys with more stats or whatever means I have to prove to everybody that I am the best receiver in the country and I’m going to show it,” he said.
Despite Floyd’s watermark performance over his first three seasons, the preseason All-American has elevated his game to another level in 2011.
“I think I’m moving around a lot more on offense and exploiting the defense’s weaknesses with our advantages,” he said. “That’s put me in a position to get good catches and keep the chains moving.”
Through 10 games, Floyd has caught 77 passes for 922 yards and seven touchdowns.
“He’s more mature, just like most of the guys on offense,” Molnar said. “A year in our system has certainly helped, knowing what our expectations are. I think his skill set has improved dramatically from when we first got here — things that you may not recognize but as coaches we see day-to-day, things that he didn’t do as consistently a year ago, he’s doing right now.
“He knows how to set up a defensive back where maybe a year ago he would just use his strength and try and run through him, where now he’ll do things to try and turn a cornerback’s or a safety’s hips and get himself in the best position to get open.”
Chemistry with Rees
Part of Floyd’s success at the end of 2010 and in 2011 can be attributed to the relationship with sophomore quarterback Tommy Rees.
“I think it’s what the defense gives us,” Floyd said. “I think he knows that with that wide receiver corps whatever coverage they give somebody’s open. I think he knows that and that we can bail him out of any situation that he has.”
In the last 14 games, dating back to 2010, Rees and Floyd have developed a strong rapport and the signal caller has been able to take advantage of his top playmaker’s talent.
“As far as my job goes, when you have a player on the field like Michael, you try to get him the ball as much as you can,” Rees said. “Our offense does a good job of putting him in different situations on the field to keep a defense guessing and different ways to put the ball in his hands. For me, it’s pretty easy — if I can get it to him, things work out pretty well. I think a lot of the work we’ve done in the past year-and-a-half in practice has prepared us to be successful.”
Molnar said the work the two have put in together has paid off early in 2011.
“Tommy’s pretty good about going through his progression and finding the right guy, but Mike’s getting open and he’s working his progression to Mike, and Mike’s coming up with the ball right now,” he said.
With his 12 catches against South Florida on Sept. 3, Floyd passed Jeff Samardzija to become the all-time Notre Dame receptions leader with 183 (he now has 196). His two touchdowns increased his career total to 30, padding a record he set last season. Despite the accomplishments, Floyd said he only pays attention to wins and losses.
“[I didn’t know] until the news told me,” he said. “It means a lot and whatever I can do to help the team to do win is the main goal and that’s what I’m trying to do. At the end of the day you want to win and whatever you break, if you’re not winning, it doesn’t mean too much.”
As a senior, Floyd knows his days at Notre Dame are numbered, and he already envisions what type of mark he wants to leave on the program.
“I just want [people] to know I was a fun guy and a leader on and off the field and in the community,” he said.
A legacy like that is sure to make any mother proud.