It isn’t often a football player from South Bend flies under the national radar.
After all, Notre Dame is permanently cemented in the spotlight of college football. Names like Brady Quinn, Jimmy Clausen, and Golden Tate have been a high-profile source of annoyance to everyone outside the Irish fanbase.
However, one receiver has done just that throughout his first two seasons with the Irish. That receiver, whom many believe to be better than 2009’s Biletnikoff winner Golden Tate, goes by the name of Michael Floyd.
Floyd is a product of Cretin-Derham High, the powerhouse of Minnesota football. Here, he was tabbed as a five-star recruit by Rivals and gathered enough attention to win him two Player of the Year awards in his home state. However, at times Floyd has been overshadowed by his younger (but much larger) teammate, Seantrel Henderson.
Now situated in South Bend and entering his junior season—perhaps his last with the Irish—Floyd is finally the go-to-guy again on the field. Gone is the star who Floyd excelled behind, Golden Tate. In comes a plethora of underclassmen talent in the likes of Shaquelle Evans, John Goodman, and freshman Tai-ler Jones.
Tabbed as a second team preseason All-American, Floyd still sits behind names such as A.J. Green (Georgia) and Ryan Broyles (Oklahoma) in popularity contents. Based on numbers, Floyd belongs where he was placed. Based on talent, however, he is second to none.
Floyd's strength is not his speed, but rather his deceptive quickness, long strides, and ball skills. When going up for a ball there are very few, if any, that can match up with him in single coverage. The only real question mark looming on Floyd’s name is his ability to stay healthy (he has missed seven games in his first two collegiate seasons).
If it weren’t for injuries last year, Floyd would have been the Irish receiver taking home the hardware. Through three games, he was the nation’s best, collecting 350 yards receiving to go along with five touchdowns. Finishing the season with only six games under his belt, his final stat line included almost 800 yards receiving and nine touchdowns.
Under Brian Kelly's pass-happy offense, plenty of opportunities will be presented to the new top dog. Not only will Floyd be targeted more since Tate is gone, but he will be asked to do most of the damage in the red zone alongside future first-round pick, tight end Kyle Rudolph.
Names like Julio Jones, Green, Broyles, and Jonathon Baldwin will be flashing across ESPN consistently. All four are elite receivers, but none compare to a healthy version of the Irish’s biggest weapon.
Whether or not Floyd gets that recognition is something we won’t find out until the last third of the schedule. If Kelly fails to have a successful first year, his receiver will feel the effects. His numbers will be down and the nation won’t take interest in a stat-inflating receiver on a mediocre team.
However, if the Irish return to their past winning ways, there is no ceiling for Floyd. The Biletnikoff, Heisman, and All-American honors are all realistic possibilities if he's healthy and continues his ’09 form.
In short, success and time will be the only telling tale of his fate of popularity.
Floyd doesn’t need a spotlight to show why he’s the best receiver collegiate athletics has to offer. He needs a quarterback, a football, and a field on a fall afternoon.