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January 13, 2011Loyola receiver Jordan Floyd certainly is not lacking for self-confidence or personality, so he doesn't mind sharing two of his more embarrassing gridiron peculiarities.
You see, Floyd readily admits he has Willie Beaman syndrome. Just like the fictional quarterback from "Any Given Sunday," the junior from Baltimore has a tendency to ahem lose his lunch before games. As soon as the National Anthem starts blaring, the butterflies swirl, the gagging begins and -- moments after "home of the brave" -- Floyd vomits right there on the sidelines.
Naturally, Floyd's "problem" became a little disconcerting. So after three weeks, he came up with a creative way to mitigate his nausea.
Listening to his iPod didn't work; neither did telling jokes. But Floyd found that singing did the trick. That's right, singing. We're talking hard-core diaphragm and vocal-cord work -- Frank Sinatra style.
Well, more like Peabo Bryson and Regina Belle, who recorded the 1992 top hit "A Whole New World."
"Believe it or not, I sing the 'Aladdin' song," Floyd said, laughing. "At first I was just humming it, but my teammates picked up on it and before you know it everyone was just belting it with me during warm-ups. It kept the tension down and got the mojo up a little bit."
Needless to say, anyone who witnessed this display was a little perplexed. It's not everyday you hear 50 football players chanting a Disney song right before game time.
"You know, whatever works," said Loyola's stoic coach, Brian Abbott, who rarely deviates from his straight-faced expression. "I guess it keeps them loose."
Indeed, as long as Floyd's producing, he'll keep singing. Last year the junior wide out danced -- err, sung - to the tune of 45 receptions for over 700 yards and 12 touchdowns. And at 6-feet-2 and a tree-trunk thick 210 pounds -- combined with a 4.45 40-yard dash time and a three-foot vertical -- he was a living nightmare for defensive backs.
"You throw it up to him and he'll just go get it," said Loyola's quarterback, Mike Fafaul. "Even when he wasn't open he made a play. He made it easy to be a quarterback."
"His sheer size and strength is already what you see in the NFL," Abbott echoed. "He's got the body of Anquan Boldin; he's a tight end with the speed and ability to play receiver."
Floyd took full advantage of his physical skills, beginning in Week 1 against the state's No. 1 ranked team at the time, DeMatha. Loyola managed to hang with the Stags for three quarters thanks to five catches, 108 yards and two spectacular touchdowns from Floyd.
On the first scoring catch, he laid out like a center fielder going for a fading pop fly. On the second, he caught a rebound off the cornerback's hands.
Turns out Floyd's pregame upchuck didn't hamper his performance.
"That game I was especially nervous because I was lined up out wide against Jordan Lomax, who has D-I offers galore," Floyd said. "But I burned those DeMatha D-I corners twice. I proved to myself that I could compete at a high level."
Floyd had plenty to prove. Although he had been starting since his sophomore year, he looked anything but a No. 1 receiver in 2009. He was slow out of his breaks, he lacked ideal speed, his hands were suspect and his upper body looked more like a lanky marathon runner's then Anquan Boldin's.
But during the offseason he began training with his older brother, Brandon Floyd, a 6-0, 200-pound sophomore receiver at Georgetown. Brandon drilled his brother on route running, pass catching, body positioning and downfield blocking. The younger Floyd then hit the weights and the track, adding muscle while shaving more than 0.2 seconds off his 40 time. Jordan even cut out the McDonalds in favor of fruits and vegetables.
If Floyd wasn't a complete receiver in 2010, he was surely the most improved in the Metro Interscholastic Athletic Association.
"His size, athleticism and coordination stood out his sophomore year, but he was so inconsistent," Abbott said. "This year was one of the more dramatic improvements I've seen."
One area where Floyd heard the most criticism was his lack of toughness. For a player that big, his coaches expected him to pummel those measly defensive backs. But time and again Floyd would go down after one shoulder blow.
Floyd vowed that wouldn't happen in 2010. Against Mount St. Joseph, Fafaul hit Floyd on a simple 5-yard hitch route right near the Loyola sideline. Immediately, three defenders jumped on his back. But instead of collapsing, Floyd shook off the trio, turned upfield and raced 50 yards for a touchdown.
Fafaul called it Floyd's most impressive play all season.
"That one still sticks in my mind," Fafaul said. "He's a special receiver."
But the play resonates with Floyd for another reason.
"When I caught it, I was standing right in front of our one coach, who was always expecting more of me," Floyd said. "I sort of proved to him that I could make a play and wouldn't go down."
Floyd proved plenty, but he still hasn't reached his full potential. Abbott, for his part, wants Floyd to improve his blocking, noting his tendency to go into "statue-mode" on running plays. He'd also like to see Floyd become a consistent force all game, every game.
"We're setting the bar high for Jordan," Abbott said. "I expect nothing but great things from him next year. He's one of the best I've coached at Loyola."
Evidently recruiters are buying in. Floyd already has an offer from Maryland, and more Division I scholarships are on the way. But Floyd isn't satisfied.
"It's nice to have an early offer, but I have to keep doing well and prove that I deserve it," Floyd said. "My goal this year is to be a threat on every single play."
Now that's a tune worth singing over and over again.
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