By Marla Ridenour
INDIANAPOLIS: After three alcohol offenses in three years, Michael Floyd was stripped of his Notre Dame captaincy and placed on probation.
Only after he graduated in December, performed hours of community service and attended required classes for troubled students was the senior reinstated to the leadership role for his final game, the Champs Sports Bowl against Florida State.
Now NFL general managers must decide how heavily to weigh the missteps of Notre Dame’s record-breaking receiver who has the body control, physicality and strong hands to be a top 15-20 pick in the April 26 draft.
One team that could be debating that question is the Browns, especially if Floyd lasts until their No. 22 selection in the first round. Pro Football Weekly and NFLDraftScout.com rank Floyd second at his position in this draft class behind Oklahoma State’s Justin Blackmon.
The Browns must revamp their receiving corps and the 6-foot-2, 220-pound Floyd showed he could help during his workout Sunday at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis. He ran the 40-yard dash in 4.47 seconds (13th at his position), hit 36.5 inches in the vertical jump (tied for 15th) and broad-jumped 10 feet, 2 inches (14th).
“That’s pretty impressive,” NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock said of Floyd’s 40 time. “Michael Floyd had a big day and earned his status as a mid-first-round pick.”
In response to a question about the Cincinnati Bengals pick at No. 21, Mayock said, “I don’t think Michael Floyd falls out of the top 21. I think his bigger challenge is to just make sure people take his red flags off the field and make sure he adjusts it accordingly. If teams take him off the board, that’s one thing. But if you’re just talking to me about a football player, he’s a top-21 talent.”
That means what Floyd said during the interview sessions at the combine will play a big part in his professional future. Floyd said Friday that he had met with the Browns.
Floyd was prepared to openly address his two arrests for underage drinking in his home state of Minnesota in 2009 and 2010, the latter when he and a former high school teammate were among six to 10 people involved in a fight in Minneapolis, according to the Associated Press.
Then last March 20, he was stopped at 3 a.m. after running a stop sign a block from Notre Dame’s main entrance and charged with driving under the influence. Prosecutors said his blood-alcohol level was 0.19, more than twice Indiana’s legal limit. Floyd pleaded guilty in June on misdemeanor charges and was sentenced to a year’s probation.
“I think I’ve grown a lot,” Floyd said Friday. “Coming to the NFL you have to mature a great deal because obviously you’ll get behind in a lot of things [if you don’t]. Like they said, this is a professional sport and you gotta act like a professional.”
Floyd said he made changes in his lifestyle to get back on the right track.
“I went out less, kind of changed the whole environment around me,” he said. “Friends … guys that I wouldn’t have to be in that position of having to do things that would potentially put me in a troubled position.
“I went to alcohol classes with a counselor with a whole bunch of kids from Notre Dame who were going through some problems, too. It was a good experience, and I liked it.”
Floyd said immaturity was at the root of his problems.
“People all the time have mistakes like this. Unfortunately it happened to me on a big stage going across the nation,” he said. “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.”
While he couldn’t serve as captain, Floyd said he appreciated the support of Irish coach Brian Kelly. Floyd said he was required to maintain a certain grade-point average and keep in communication with Kelly.
“I give him a lot of great thanks for sticking by me because in that position you never know, a coach could just kick you off the team,” Floyd said. “He gave me a chance and I took that chance and moved forward.”
After he reinstated Floyd as a captain for the bowl game, Kelly told WNDU.com: “In this profession, when you get to see a guy change his life after adversity, that’s really what makes it special. He has exhibited all the things necessary that we have asked him to do. He’s gotten his degree from Notre Dame, he’s lived his life the right way and he’s been extraordinary in his preparation and practice.”
There are few doubts about Floyd’s potential on the field. Despite breaking his left collarbone in 2009 and missing two games with a right knee injury in 2008, Floyd played in 43 games and set Notre Dame career receiving records for catches (271), yards (3,686), 100-yard games (17) and touchdowns (37), which tied Blackmon for 16th on the NCAA’s all-time list. Last season Floyd became the first Irish receiver to notch 100 catches.
Floyd might have given an inkling that he’s matured when he chose the Arizona Cardinals’ Larry Fitzgerald as his role model.
“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. I worked out with him before, and he’s a guy that everyone wants to be around.”
Marla Ridenour can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read her blog at http://marla.ohio.com/. Follow her on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/MRidenourABJ. Follow ABJ sports on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.