Gators' Sharrif Floyd selected by the Vikings in the first round
NEW YORK — It's easy to understand Sharrif Floyd's verbal slip as midnight approached and Thursday night was about to give way to Friday morning.
Speaking to reporters here at Radio City Music Hall after he was selected in the first round of the NFL Draft — 23rd overall by the Minnesota Vikings — Floyd's whirlwind day was finally coming to an end.
In one brief announcement by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, Floyd went from a junior defensive tackle for the Gators to an NFL rookie with the Vikings. The wait to hear his named called took longer than Floyd expected, but he said afterward that he was not angry or upset at dropping beyond where most projections had him.
"I was sitting here waiting for my name to be called,'' he said. "I knew it was coming and I was waiting for the best fit to pick me."
Someone asked if he looked forward to Minnesota's long-standing rivalry with the Bears.
"I can't wait. Now I'm part of the Minnesota Vikings,'' Floyd said. "If it ain't bleeding orange and gold, then we're not a part of it."
Floyd, of course, meant purple and gold as he got tongue-tied after his three seasons in orange and blue at Florida.
Goodell's announcement capped a long evening for Floyd, one of 24 players to attend Thursday night's draft and participate in the red-carpet ceremonies.
Dressed in a dapper light-colored suit with a pink dress shirt and dark tie, Floyd spent nearly the first three hours with family and friends waiting on his NFL destination.
Gators coach Will Muschamp made the trip to New York to attend his first draft to support the 6-foot-2, 305-pound defensive tackle.
The two formed a close bond during Muschamp's first two seasons, a bond strengthened when Floyd missed time early in his sophomore season as he waited on an NCAA ruling related to a question about his eligibility.
Floyd was cleared and turned into a dominant force for Florida's defensive this season, helping the Gators go 11-1 in the regular season after a 6-6 regular season in Muschamp's first season.
"He has handled it all first-class,'' Muschamp said. "He totally defies the notion that you are a product of your upbringing, because he had nothing. It's just a great story about a young man who persevered through a lot of tough times and chose to make good choices and decisions in his life and that reveals what his character really is."
After Floyd went later than expected Thursday night, Muschamp scoffed at any concerns teams may have had about Floyd's character or background.
"I was with the young man for two years,'' Muschamp said. "He was as good of a young man as we had on our football team and in our locker rooms. There’s absolutely no character issues.
"I don’t know where that comes from. People grasp at straws when a guy slides a little bit. At the end of the day, he’s a first-round pick in the NFL Draft and that’s a heck of an accomplishment.”
In his brief press conference at Radio City Music Hall, Floyd appeared upbeat and unconcerned about his drop. He was too thankful that a dream he hatched as an underprivileged teenager growing up in Philadelphia had somehow came to fruition.
"I couldn't be a part of a better ball club,'' Floyd said. "This has been a goal of mine for a long time and now it's here. I am excited to get out there and get started."
After playing defensive end in 2011 due to the Gators being shorthanded along the defensive line, Floyd moved back to his natural defensive tackle position last season and blossomed. He recorded 46 tackles, including a team-high 13 for lost yardage while adding three sacks.
A natural run-stopper in the middle, Floyd also has the foot speed and agility to get into the backfield and pressure quarterbacks.
Floyd is expected to someday replace veteran Vikings defensive tackle Kevin Williams, who turns 33 in August. Early speculation is that the Vikings will use Floyd at nose tackle until Williams, in the final year of his contract, moves on or accepts a more limited role.
Vikings general manager Rick Spielman told reporters he likes the versatility Floyd offers along the defensive line.
"I think he has the flexibility to play inside at nose," Spielman said. “But I think his true position is the three-technique just because of his natural quickness and athletic skill set. He can play the run; he can rush the passer. He played some end his junior year and when they moved him back inside to his natural position, he really flourished and showed what he can be as a defensive tackle."
Floyd is ready for whatever role the Vikings want him in. He said he didn't have as much contact with Minnesota as other team during the draft process.
"This pick is shocking to me,'' he said. "I'm glad to be a part of it."
For a kid from the streets of Philadelphia who didn't grow up a huge football fan but eventually found a home in the game, Thursday night is a night he will remember forever.
He'll remember the ride through the streets of Manhattan, the red-carpet interviews, the stylish suit and sunglasses, and of course, the moment Goodell finally called his name.
Floyd's wait was over. A dream was fulfilled.
"Here's a guy who came from Philadelphia and had nothing and put himself in position to make good choices,'' Muschamp said. "He's a young man that just got drafted in the first round of the NFL Draft. He’s got a lot to be thankful for and with the opportunity sitting in front of him, I’m sure he’ll use it a little bit as far as motivation. But at the end of the day, he got drafted in the first round of the NFL Draft and that’s a heck of an honor. I'm very proud of him."