DE Sharrif Floyd’s focus returns to football

By Adam Silverstein
September 18, 2011

For the entire offseason, sophomore defensive end Sharrif Floyd knew he would be starting for the Florida Gators when they took on Florida Atlantic on Sept. 3. He concentrated on learning a brand new position after switching from defensive tackle and planned to do as much as he could to help the team win.

That plan changed for Floyd just two-and-a-half hours before kickoff when the University of Florida‘s compliance office told him that the NCAA finally decided he would ineligible to compete based on information they had for more than six months.

Floyd, who received financial benefits in high school that the NCAA deemed against their rules, was told he would have to sit out the game and await their ruling.

“We’d been fighting it since last February, so they wanted until game day to give us an answer,” he said on Saturday. “[The NCAA] just kept coming back with the same questions and all of that.”

Just days before Florida’s second game of the season, Sept. 10 against UAB, Floyd found out the NCAA had officially suspended him two games and required that he repay $2,700 to a charity of his choice for receiving improper benefits. He was forced to wait one more game before he could finally compete.

“It was the hardest thing I’ve had to do in my life,” he explained. “[I had to] sit down and watch my team go out to war, and I had to watch and cheer. I hope I never have to do that again.”

[EXPAND Click to expand and read the remainder of this post.]Fortunately for Floyd, who is described by coaches and teammates not only as a leader and great player but also an upstanding member of the community, it is not likely he will be faced with a similar situation. Especially because of his positive attitude and refusal to let what many are calling an injustice affect him long-term.

“I don’t feel like I’m grouped in with all those other players who did bad things. I’m not a bad guy. I stay positive. I’m always doing the right thing,” he said. “I go to class. I have a 3.0 GPA. There’s nothing wrong in my profile. I don’t think I should be grouped in with those type of athletes, because that’s not the type of athlete I am.”

In fact, it was Floyd’s honesty and character that put him in this situation to begin with. He is the one who brought the potential violation to UF’s attention because he learned it might be an issue and was concerned that it could affect the team.

“One of my friends that was also being recruited was starting to get investigated, so I felt the need to come to our compliance office, tell them everything I’ve been through and help them to understand my story,” he explained. “They told me nothing was wrong so I had no worries. I kept working out and kept getting ready for the season. And then it popped up. I just took it like a man and did what I had to do to get back on the field.”

That is what Floyd did on Saturday. He performed in live game action for the first time since January, was named a team captain, registered three tackles, broke up one pass and hit the quarterback twice.

“I’m at a new position that I need a lot of experience at. Took me a couple plays to get in a groove and then a couple cuts slowed me down a little bit, but I got back into it. Trying to get pressure off the edge is not as easy as it looks,” he said.

Not only did Floyd succeed from a physical standpoint, he also provided an emotional lift for the team facing its first Southeastern Conference foe this season.

“He’s a leader. He’s an outstanding young man – as good as we’ve got in that locker room,” head coach Will Muschamp said after the game. “When he walks on that field and he says something, he commands a lot of respect because of his honesty and his integrity and the type of man he is.”

What Muschamp, the other coaches and some of his teammates may not know is that it is their support that has lifted Floyd up when he needed it the most.

“I love Coach Muschamp and the whole staff. When that happened, our bond just got closer because he understands my situation and he understands the type of person I am and so do all the other coaches, especially the defensive staff who’s around me every day,” he said before discussing the support he received from his teammates.

“It actually just showed me how much I mean to the team and how much the team cares about me. I love all the guys, and I’d do anything for any of them. Really anything for any of them – the walk-ons, too. I was happy to see that. [It was] pretty touching.”

Now that his trials and tribulations are behind him, Floyd has one remaining focus this season: football. He proved that when he was asked to evaluate his performance, which included some good plays but no quarterback sacks.

“That’s what defenses want – sacks,” he said with a smile. “They want to hit the quarterback – the pretty boy, the you-can’t-touch-me guy. That’s what defensive linemen want. We want quarterbacks.”[/EXPAND]

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