Floyd's season ending much better than it began

BY foxsports • November 18, 2011

Ask the Notre Dame coaches what they'll miss most about Michael Floyd, and his stats are the last thing they mention.

Instead of his school record for catches, they talk about his dedication to practice.

Instead of his Notre Dame mark for yards receiving, they tell of a player who pulls underclassmen aside to give them tips and advice, as much a coach as anyone on the staff.

And instead of all those touchdown receptions, they proudly describe a young man who turned his life around following a drunken-driving arrest in the spring, his third alcohol-related brush with the law in two years.

''This is why I coach,'' Irish coach Brian Kelly said this week. ''To see a young man change the course of his life, and see that on a day-to-day basis, it's probably as rewarding as any singular victory. And that's what Michael Floyd has done. And that feels good as a coach that you can see a young man who is in a good place. He wasn't in such a good place, but now he is, and that's important.''

Floyd will play his last game at Notre Dame Stadium on Saturday when the 24th-ranked Irish (7-3) host Boston College (3-7).

It's a day few were certain would come last March, when Floyd was arrested at 3:18 a.m. on a Saturday, after running a stop sign a block from the school's main entrance. Prosecutors say a breath test showed Floyd had a blood-alcohol level of 0.19 percent, more than double Indiana's legal limit for driving.

Considering Floyd already had been cited twice for underage drinking in his home state of Minnesota, there was the possibility Notre Dame officials might come down hard on him, maybe even throw him out of school.

Instead, he was allowed to stay. Kelly suspended him for spring practice, but told Floyd in no uncertain terms that he needed to change his ways.

Immediately.

''Mike had every excuse to want to blame someone else. `This happened because of this, and that because of this, so I'm going to react this way,''' Irish receivers coach Tony Alford said. ''He did none of the above. He took complete ownership of every single thing. He's grown as a man. That's the biggest thing. He has really, really matured as a young man and that shows in his everyday life.

''We all knew he could play. Everybody knows that,'' Alford added. ''But when you watch the growth and the maturation he's had, it's very gratifying to be able to witness that every day.''

Kelly reinstated Floyd before the season began, and cynics said it was because the Irish needed Floyd to have any shot at a decent season. Floyd has certainly contributed, ranking ninth in the country with almost eight catches per game. He's averaging 92 yards receiving, and has seven touchdown he receptions.

He even scored the first rushing TD of his career.

''He's a special player,'' Boston College linebacker Luke Kuechly said. ''He's big, he's strong and he's fast. Anytime you get a guy like that he's dangerous. ... We've got to do a good job of banging him, getting into his routes and disrupting him. If you let a guy like this run free he's going to pick you apart.''

But Floyd has shown his newfound maturity is no act with effort in areas most people won't even notice.

Floyd was so sick a week ago he spent much of the day in the infirmary. Yet he showed up for practice anyway and worked as hard as he always does, Alford said, never taking a single play off. When the ball is in someone else's hands he's quick to provide a block, often with the kind of force and strength that would make an offensive lineman proud.

And though he is almost certain to be a high pick in the upcoming NFL draft, Floyd volunteered to return punts when he saw it was a weak spot for the Irish.

''He said, `I may be the best guy, I may be the second best, I may be the third best, I might not be good at it, but give me a shot. I want to help,''' Irish offensive coordinator Charley Molnar said. ''I don't know if the Michael Floyd of 2010 would have done that, but I know the Michael Floyd of now has done that.''

Off the field, Floyd has changed his circle of friends. He also underwent counseling. And he's getting closer to earning that degree he promised his mother.

''That's all she cares about, really. Just making sure that I'm doing whatever I can to get that degree and walk out of one of the biggest, (most) prestigious colleges around,'' Floyd said.

Floyd doesn't dwell on his transformation, seeming somewhat uncomfortable talking about the progress he's made. College is a learning experience for everyone, whether they're football stars or bookworms, and the best lessons sometimes come from the biggest mistakes.

But he is proud of what he's done, prouder of who he's become.

''It makes me feel great just knowing that people notice that I am making a big change in my life. I am maturing and becoming a man,'' Floyd said Wednesday. ''And the experiences I went through, it made me feel better about myself that I needed to change. I feel that I came out as a better person.''

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AP Sports Writer Rick Gano and AP freelance writer Ken Powtak contributed to this story.


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