Floyd gets another chance with Irish

SOUTH BEND, Ind — Michael Floyd is 6-foot-3, 220 pounds, a wide receiver who can run over defensive backs or break away from them, a player who makes catches in traffic with his sturdy hands and a fearless approach. He's used to having all eyes on him — his teammates, his coaches, his opponents, TV viewers and the thousands of fans who pack stadiums wherever Notre Dame plays.

On offense, he is the best Irish player and has more touchdown catches than any player in the school's storied football history. He's a potential difference maker between a ho-hum season that could land the Irish in a lower-tier bowl or one that could send them where they want to go in coach Brian Kelly's second season — to a berth in the BCS.

And this season Floyd will be watched more than ever, for his ability on the field and his conduct off it. He's been given a rare chance by Kelly, who reinstated him to the team earlier this month after he'd been suspended for drunken driving in March.

Eyebrows have been raised, especially after the school's disciplinary arm, the Office of Residence Life — known in the past for suspending athletes for their misconduct — did not bring its harshest penalty down on Floyd, allowing him to stay in school.

That opened the way for Kelly to bring back his star receiver, who missed all of spring practice but was cleared by the coach to participate in offseason voluntary workouts. Then three days before preseason camp began earlier this month, Kelly put Floyd back on the team.


"He could have let me go on my own and whatever happened, happened," Floyd said. "But you know he stepped in for me and he knew that I was a better person than what I showed. ... And he's given me another chance, another opportunity to help this team and help myself in life be successful. If he didn't trust me, I wouldn't be in this situation right now."

Floyd warmed Irish hearts by announcing in January he would forgo the NFL draft, stay in school as a senior and try to help the Irish improve on last year's 8-5 season that ended with a four-game winning streak, including a Sun Bowl win over Miami.

But just two months later, 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.

In late June, St. Joseph County Magistrate Brian Steinke gave Floyd a one-year jail sentence that was suspended as part of a plea agreement. He also said Floyd cannot drive for 90 days and once when he does, he must have an ignition device installed on his vehicle for six months that won't allow it to start if his blood-alcohol level is too high.

Floyd was fined $200 and ordered to attend a victim impact panel to hear from people whose family members were killed in drunken driving accidents.

Earlier, Floyd was cited for underage consumption of alcohol on May 15, 2009, in his home state of Minnesota, and pleaded guilty through a hearing officer a month later. He was also cited for underage drinking in Minneapolis on Jan. 8, 2010.

Kelly's edict to Floyd was this: Change your life if you want to play football at Notre Dame for one more season.

There are the critics — and Notre Dame has both a huge following a loyal fans and loud detractors — who reason that Kelly's decision was an easy one because Floyd would help him win football games as he tries to bring the Irish back to the top of college football.


Kelly, who has made successful coaching stops at Grand Valley State, Central Michigan and Cincinnati, said his decision to reinstate Floyd was based on several factors — his own gut feeling after coaching for more than two decades and talking informally with Floyd and those who have been around him.

The coach said he was convinced Floyd had made the necessary changes in his life.

As for the critics, Kelly said he isn't worried about public perception.

"I don't know how to respond to it other than they would have to be around my team meetings and be around our players. Look, there has to be integrity in what you do," Kelly said. "If this all about selling out just to win games, then I am out of this business. There has to be more than just winning games. I have to win games, I understand that. But I also have to have the fulfillment that I can impact young men's lives ..."

Floyd said he has changed his circle of friends. He underwent counseling. And he was directed by Res Life to stay in a dorm instead of moving off campus. He also vowed to change because of the embarrassment he caused his family. He has promised his mother he will earn a degree from Notre Dame.

"Mike knows that he's got all eyes on him, an intense amount of scrutiny, there are cynics out there that think we had this put together from Day One," Kelly said. "We can't change what people think. But we know, as most parents do, that we try to make good decisions based on the patterns that we have seen. I trust Mike, based up what I have seen in the last four and a half months and I expect to continue that trust to build."

Floyd said at a news conference announcing his reinstatement that he had not had a drink in a bar since his arrest in March. He acknowledged he had been in a bar since then, but only to socialize with friends.

"I make sure that I don't make those decisions again. I need to kind of lay-low on the whole thing and just stop the drinking. Every time I think about it, I think of what is at stake and just making sure I make good decisions and moving forward making sure I make good choices," Floyd said.


Floyd holds the school record for touchdown catches (28) and ranks second in school history in catches (171) and third in receiving yards (2,539). Stay healthy and he'll break the other two marks this season.

Floyd's teammates have welcomed him back. He was supposed to be a team captain but lost that title after his suspension, although he would be eligible to be a game week captain.

"Floyd is an unbelievable receiver. You can never replace a guy like that. You can't guard that guy one-on-one. He opens up a whole lot for the offense. We are all really glad to have Mike," said fellow receiver Robby Toma.

"He apologized to the team. He's a great guy. He did make a mistake and he has made amazing strides. I have been real proud of how he has bounced back. I don't see the crowd this fall affecting him at all. Once he is on the field, all he is worried about is getting in the end zone."

Floyd's presence helps the other receivers and also helps his quarterback — whether it be Dayne Crist or Tommy Rees — make something out of nothing when there is a breakdown.

"He make certain plays other guys can't," Rees said, adding that Floyd's absence this spring at least helped other receivers get more repetitions.

"Obviously it wasn't a great situation," Rees said. "But if you take a positive out of it, we got to develop those receivers more this spring."

Floyd promises to let those who are unhappy with Kelly's decision to reinstate him say what they have to because he won't be listening.


"They love football here ... someone is always criticizing me, so you just got to stay positive. The rumors and whoever wants to be negative. ... you got to let it go. Just make sure you learn is the main thing. It's the key," he said.

Kelly said Floyd's situation is not a daily topic of conversation, but neither is it forgotten.

"He's always carrying that with him. We don't go back and relive that. We look at how Mike handles himself every single day," Kelly said. "I think that's what I focus on more than anything else, knowing that every day Michael, he's part of our program, he's got to live up to the standards that have been set."

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