Florida defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd has blown analysts away all the way through the pre-draft process. He didn't participate in Florida's recent pro day due to a slight ankle injury he suffered at the combine, but Floyd got on the field on Friday, and confirmed everything we already knew, based on the tape. When he's told to go get after his goal, Floyd is a impressive force.
At 6-foot-3 and 297 pounds, Floyd is a surprisingly advanced player for his experience level (just one full season as a starter), and after starting the final 11 games of the 2011 season at defensive end, he anchored inside in 2012 and dominated nearly every opponent he faced. He put together 46 tackles, 13.0 tackles for loss, one sack in the regular season, and two in the Sugar Bowl against Louisville. The third-ranked Gators lost that game in a 33-23 upset, but Floyd had made his mark. Stack all that on top of a combine performance in which he clocked a 4.92 in the 40-yard dash, and it's easy to see why he's at the top of the list at his position.
Perhaps the most impressive aspect of Floyd's game, and this is more important than ever in an NFL that has multiple fronts and wants its linemen to move around, is the fact that he can move all around the defensive line. From end to nose tackle, he can do it all.
"I feel great, knowing that the hard part is done," Floyd told Charles Davis of the NFL Network after his workout was done. "A lot of teams like what I do, and that's a good thing. Now, it's just time to sit back, focus in the draft, and let them do what they've got to do."
As he did throughout his collegiate career, Floyd was relentless on the field, doing rep after rep in position drills. He was in great shape, and didn't seem to flag at all.
"He was fast, he was strong, and he was agile," Davis said of Floyd on the NFL Network's Path to the Draft show. "You name it, he was ready to go today."
"I wasn't going to stop until he told me to stop," Floyd said of the position drills. "I wasn't going to say, 'I'm done.'"
"A player, first of all, that they don't have to worry about off the field," Floyd said, when asked what the NFL team drafting him will get. "A player that's going to handle his business on the field, and somebody they can count on. Somebody who's going to be there for the program and for my teammates. As a three-technique, a disruptive player, and somebody who's going to get after it non-stop."
Floyd made Teddy Bridgewater's life difficult in the Sugar Bowl. (USAT Sports Images)Perhaps the key to Floyd's non-stop drive is a past filled with pain that Floyd has been able to overcome better than most. As NFL.com's Jeff Darlington recently revealed in a profile, Floyd tried to spend as much as time alone as possible in the North Philadelphia neighborhood where he grew up -- away from the man who abused him. The man he thought was his father.
"It was just me, you know?" Floyd told Darlington. "And it was great. I mean, I had a lot of time to think to myself. No one really asked how I felt about anything or how I was doing about anything. But if I could change anything in my life, honestly, I wouldn't change a thing."
Floyd was fifteen years old when he finally discovered that the man who had abused him mentally and physically throughout his childhood wasn't even his biological father. His real father was dead, and his mother had acquired a drug habit.
"People want to make excuses, saying some guys are just the products of their environment," Florida head coach Will Muschamp told Darlington. "Sharrif Floyd defies that theory. There is no reason he should be the kid he is right now. His background is as tough as anyone I've been around."
He received help from Rob Cohen, his high school coach. He received help from his grandmother, Lucille Ryans. And eventually, thorough football, Floyd was able to put his life together and point the way to a better world. Soon, he'll be able to realize his ultimate goals -- to play in the NFL, and to take his grandmother out of that old neighborhood.
"You're put in positions to overcome or see what you do in those situations, and it wasn't a good situation for me and my grandmother," Floyd told Darlington. "But we stuck together, you know? How do you come out of those hard times? We stuck through it. And now, she's getting ready to get out of Philadelphia real soon."
No wonder Sharrif Floyd has been able to make football look relatively easy. Compared to everything else in his life, it has been.
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