Redshirt sophomore quarterback Matt Floyd may have said it best when he said no one can be harder on a player than the player himself.
From Week 1, Floyd gave himself plenty reason to do just that.
After being voted team captain by his teammates a week before the season opener hosting McNeese State, Floyd won the quarterback battle and lost it soon after. Down 26-7 to the Mustangs on the closing drive before halftime, the first-time starter threw an interception returned for a touchdown.
On the opening drive of the third quarter, Floyd’s next pass of the game, another interception, was thrown, subsequently allowing McNeese’s offense to score and make the deficit even larger.
That would be the last time of the season the No. 11 jersey would be behind center on game day.
His 9-of-20 performance with two picks and no touchdowns followed a season in which he played in seven games and started in two, replacing an injured B.J. Daniels. Like 2013, 2012 featured no scores for Floyd but rather five interceptions.
Floyd said he was frustrated.
But he couldn’t let the team know.
“I can’t wear that on my sleeve,” he said. “I still had to be upbeat and happy. I had to do what’s best for the team. I have to put the team ahead of myself.”
Though his role as a starter in the season opener has since been reduced to the third or fourth option at the position behind freshman Mike White, sophomore Steven Bench and senior Bobby Eveld, Floyd’s role as a captain hasn’t diminished.
In every game this season, starter or not, Floyd has walked on the field for the coin toss. Just as he was before the season started, Floyd remained a team captain.
“From that point on I became the leader still that I am,” he said. “I’ve never been a vocal leader. That’s not me at all, and I don’t get to be that playing leader either, but the way I really channeled myself this year is that I got to know people better on the team because in the past, we were a bunch of cliques and didn’t really work together. I’ve gotten a lot closer with the guys, more so than in the past, and now we’re like best friends and brothers.”
Since USF coach Willie Taggart and his new staff signed onto the Bulls, a major focus has been team chemistry and eliminating the “cliques” from prior seasons, something quarterbacks coach Nick Sheridan said is likely the reason Floyd was voted a captain by the team.
“They respect him, what he stood for and what he’s all about,” Sheridan said. “He’s been doing a great job.”
While going from under center to behind the coach on the sideline would diminish the motivation of some, Sheridan added that isn’t the case for Floyd.
“I don’t think he’s changed his mentality at all, and I think that speaks to his leadership,” Sheridan said. “Regardless of the circumstance, he’s had a great attitude and has been very positive around the building. That’s what makes him a good leader.”
As a team leader, having spent time individually with players and having a whole season to evaluate the new staff, the freshmen and the reaction to being in a new conference, Floyd said the team that stepped into Raymond James Stadium and lost to McNeese State in Week 1 has changed drastically.
“I think we are night and day different than what we were in the first game of the season and spring,” he said. “I feel like we’re coming together more and playing together as a team. We’re playing with more heart as you can see in the UCF game where they counted us way out of it and we took it to the last minute. I think the thing with this team is that we never give up, no matter what anyone says.”
But what Floyd has managed to do, as backup to an injured quarterback last season and as team captain this season, can hardly be measured in the locker room or practice fields.
When Floyd isn’t with his team or in the classroom, the quarterback is working on something more.
Since last fall, Floyd has been the vice president of the Order of the Golden Brahman, member of the USF National Hazing Prevention board, involved himself with USF’s Hillel (the Jewish student center) and has become very involved with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee .
His strong interest in politics, hopes at working in the state department and passion for Christianity is where his interest in Israel stems from saying that the country is a big ally to the United States both economically and militarily.
“We spend so much time together as athletes that sometimes we aren’t really integrated with other students,” Floyd said. “It’s a good opportunity to know other people.”
Still, he leads.
More recently, Floyd became a founding member and president of Christians United For Israel at USF.
As president, just as he’s done by helping his teammates individually at practice, Floyd takes that with him into the organizations he’s a part of, Elyse Warren, a senior majoring in international studies and history, said.
“He’ll find people who can seek out leadership positions, seek out their weaknesses and strengths and make sure to feed off of it,” she said. “He can see when someone is struggling and tries to target that to deal with it. He’s very personable.”
If the balancing act was getting to the student athlete, Warren, who has known Floyd for a year through Hillel and has helped him through rough patches in the founding of CUFI, said if it was getting to him, said you wouldn’t know.
“He never shows his frustration,” Warren said. “You almost don’t see emotion, period. If he’s really happy about something you’ll know, but if it’s something bad, like issues with CUFI or any of the organizations, he wouldn’t show a single bad sentiment. He would just find a solution to the problem and solve it.”
Floyd said there’s a time and place for everything, and the payoff is worth it.
“Balancing is a tough act, but football has its time with meetings and film,” he said. “Then there’s class on top of that, but doing organizations … they’re just fun to be a part of. It really allows you to be a part of something meaningful outside of football.”
Meeting people last year through extracurricular activities formed a snowball effect, he said.
That snowball soon avalanched and has helped Floyd to be nominated for the 2013 Freddie Solomon Community Spirit Award, a trophy given to a Florida or South Carolina native who has impacted the lives of others through community service.
As a finalist for the award, Floyd said he is more than pleased.
“When I found out I was nominated for it, it was a big surprise. I wasn’t expecting it at all,” he said. “It’s a really great honor to be a finalist. Even if I don’t win, being associated with Freddie Solomon is a great thing.”
Heading into the offseason, Floyd said he’s excited to have more time to dedicate to an organization he founded in CUFI to see it “take off,” but that isn’t to say his focus has strayed from football.
He, like other players and coaches, admitted the season didn’t go as planned. He admitted that his season personally hasn’t gone exactly as planned when he got pulled against McNeese State.
If he had the chance, he said, he wouldn’t change a thing. Where the Bulls are now, heading into a winter break, Floyd expects a new team — a better one — in 2014.
“Obviously, I was excited for the first game, and it didn’t turn out like I or anyone else wanted to, but I think it worked out best for the team,” he said. “Despite it all, I wouldn’t change any of it because we grew a lot. Despite all the downfalls, we’ve become a better team, and it’s going to show in the spring and the offseason with how hard we work. I think you’re going to see a completely different team record wise next year.”